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Uganda - Rwanda should resolve border conflict to enhance EAC integration

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Added 13th April 2019 05:38 PM

For starters, the current Rwanda-Uganda border closure by Rwanda is being considered within the ambit of bilateral relations.

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For starters, the current Rwanda-Uganda border closure by Rwanda is being considered within the ambit of bilateral relations.

 
By Odongo George Stephen
 
The closure of the Uganda-Rwanda border by Rwanda has been a subject of intense discussions in various fora. The discussions have tended to question the efficacy of the East African Community (EAC) integration. 
 
In the ensuing discussions, the role of the East African Legislative Assembly (EALA) and indeed its relevance in resolving the current situation has been interrogated. Consequently, my colleagues and I have been inundated with calls from people demanding explanations. East Africans are demanding an explanation from their legislators and other leaders is a very positive indicator of our integration.
 
For starters, the current Rwanda-Uganda border closure by Rwanda is being considered within the ambit of bilateral relations. As such, it is being handled through diplomatic and other existing bilateral channels between the two sister states. That notwithstanding, Uganda and Rwanda are an integral part of our regional ecosystem. The closure of the border is no doubt an indictment of our EAC integration. As Members of the East African Legislative Assembly (EALA), our position on this matter is guided and consistent with the spirit and letter of the Treaty for the Establishment of the East African Community.
 
Article 6 of the EAC Treaty outlines the fundamental principles that shall govern the achievement of the objectives of the Community. These include among others, mutual trust, political will and sovereign equality, peaceful co-existence and good neighborliness, peaceful settlement of disputes and cooperation for mutual benefits.
 
Additionally, Article 124 of the EAC Treaty underscores the indispensability of peace and security as pre-requisites to social and economic development - “In this regard, the partner states agree to foster and maintain an atmosphere that is conducive to peace and security through cooperation and consultations with a view to prevention, better management and resolution of disputes and conflicts between them.”
 
The framers of the EAC Treaty understood the complexity of intergovernmental relations and thus provided a framework for dealing with this and any other conflicts and disputes. Regional integration is an extraordinary undertaking that takes a delicate balance between national and regional interests. In the end, it is the courage of those that pursue national interests in the broader context of a strong EAC that will deliver the dividends of our integration. A strong EAC is in no doubt in our best strategic interest. In the last couple of years, EAC has focused largely on enhancing regional trade as a key driver of our integration. Since the establishment of Customs Union in January 2005, statistics from the EAC Secretariat shows that trade amongst East African Community partner states has grown by USD4 billion. For instance, in 2005, trade between the EAC states was USD 1.5b but has since increased to USD 5.5b in 2017. Trade between Rwanda and Uganda alone accounts for about USD 200 million. We should focus more on creating an enabling environment for expanding our markets – investing in the “software” and “hardware” elements such as regional peace and security, building infrastructure, enact laws and policies to facilitate trade in the region. 
 
Therefore, as members of EALA-Uganda Chapter, we would like to urge Rwanda and Uganda to work towards a speedy normalization of our relations. We also implore the two partner states to exercise restraint and refrain from the use of very toxic rhetoric that seeks to widen fault lines in our relations. There is absolutely no winner when we conflict – to the contrary, our common and individual adversaries celebrate when we conflict. There is an African saying that,  “when two brothers fight and die, it is strangers that inherit their wealth”.
 
The writer is an MP – EALA and Chairperson EALA – Uganda Chapter

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