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EAC ministers discuss infrastructure, trade

By David Lumu

Added 30th January 2019 04:30 PM

The ministers from Kenya, Rwanda, Uganda, Tanzania, Burundi and South Sudan have held rounds of talks since the opening of the 38th Extra-Ordinary Meeting of EAC Council of Ministers on Monday.

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The ministers from Kenya, Rwanda, Uganda, Tanzania, Burundi and South Sudan have held rounds of talks since the opening of the 38th Extra-Ordinary Meeting of EAC Council of Ministers on Monday.

DIPLOMACY

Regional ministers from the five East African Community (EAC) are in Arusha for preliminary talks on trade and development, ahead of the 20th Summit of the EAC Heads of State slated for Friday.

The ministers from Kenya, Rwanda, Uganda, Tanzania, Burundi and South Sudan have held rounds of talks since the opening of the 38th Extra-Ordinary Meeting of EAC Council of Ministers on Monday.

A delegation from Uganda is participating in the talks, although officials from Uganda’s foreign affairs ministry had by press time yesterday not yet confirmed details of the discussion.

According to an advisory from the EAC Secretariat, the regional ministers are discussing infrastructure, political matters, customs and trade, finance and administration.

The upcoming summit comes after two similar meetings scheduled for November 30 and December 27 were called off at the last minute, with fears of tension in the regional bloc.

Sources revealed that the summit would, among other things, settle emerging issues that could injure the friendly ties among some member states if not resolved amicably and decisively.

Recently, foreign affairs minister, Sam Kutesa, said that during the summit, Uganda will present a report on the milestones achieved during the tenure of President Yoweri Museveni as chairperson.

At the Arusha summit, Museveni is also expected to handover chairmanship of the EAC to John Magufuli, the President of Tanzania.

“We are ready for the ordinary EAC summit and as Uganda, we hope to present a report on what we have achieved during the time that President Museveni has been chairperson,” Kutesa said.

The council of EAC ministers will be chaired by Kirunda Kivejinja, the 2nd deputy Prime Minister and Minister for East African Affairs.

Last year the EAC Heads of State summit was cancelled due to lack of quorum after Burundi failed to make it to Arusha.

This time, the summit has been convened when some member states are heavily complaining about sinister motives engineered by neighbours.

However, officials from the foreign affairs ministry said all these emerging sticky issues will be discussed at the Arusha summit and a way forward will be reached so that the development agenda within the East African Community takes shape.

The EAC bloc has planned over 200 infrastructure projects, which if implemented will inter-connect all member states, for easy transport and trade.

Key among these projects is the Standard Gauge Railway (SGR), hydropower, oil and gas, refinery, oil pipeline, the road and bridge network and water transport system within the region.

The EAC member states are also rooting for the Lamu Port, South Sudan, Ethiopia Transport Corridor (LAPSSET) multi-billion project that will connect East Africa to the Horn of Africa.

The last summit convened and adjourned in December was poised to discuss several issues, including the status of ratification of international protocols.

The summit was also meant to resolve longstanding non-tariff barriers and assess progress report on the adoption of a political confederation. 

The latest adjournment comes hardly two weeks after President Museveni and Nkurunziza exchanged tersely-worded letters about a dispute in the region.

In a December 4, 2018, letter to Mr Museveni as current chair of EAC, Nkrunziza accused Rwanda of “aggression and called for emergency meeting of the regional leaders to resolve it.

In his December 8 response, Museveni said he agreed that tension between Rwanda and Burundi should be discussed but said priority should be the prosperity and security of the region.

The regional leaders have previously downplayed observations by analysts that the EAC bloc is under threat from rising tensions among some member states.

The EAC is ranked as one of the world’s fastest growing regional economic blocs and regional leaders have embraced a wide range of ambitious infrastructure and regional integration projects.

Uganda maintains good relations with each of the EAC member states.  Last month, Rwanda’s new foreign affairs minister, Dr Richard Sezibera pledged to improve relations with Uganda.

It  followed months of cryptic exchanges between the two countries over accusations of arrests and deportation of their respective citizens.

 

 

 

 

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