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Friday,September 18,2020 17:50 PM

Otafiire outlines EAC agenda

By David Lumu

Added 21st January 2020 09:29 PM

Currently, EAC has achieved a common market and common customs union, with common currency and political federation in the pipeline.

Otafiire outlines EAC agenda

Currently, EAC has achieved a common market and common customs union, with common currency and political federation in the pipeline.

The incoming East African Affairs Minister, Kahinda Otafiire, (left) receiving documents from the 2nd Deputy Prime Minister, Kirunda Kivejinja, during the handover ceremony. Photo by Nancy Nanyonga

The incoming Minister for East African Affairs, Maj. Gen. (Rtd) Kahinda Otafiire, has listed getting a common currency and registering the much-needed political confederation as key priorities as he takes over the regional docket.

During a handover ceremony held earlier today at the headquarters of the Ministry East African Affairs, Postal Building in Kampala, Otafiire described the movement of youth from Africa to seek green pastures in Europe and America as a "shame", underscoring the need for a unified EAC and Africa for easy utilisation of the abundant resources and opportunities that unity presents.

"It is shame when you see Africans dying in the Mediterranean Sea running into resource-constrained countries in Europe and America," he said, calling for the need to address this trend by turning African resources into opportunities.

"It is an issue for historical review," he added.

Handing over office to Otafiire, the second deputy Prime Minister and Minister without portfolio, Kirunda Kivejinja, said he was happy that President Yoweri Museveni always appoints people he described as "visionaries"  to head the docket.


Citing the late Eriya Kategaya, himself and now Otafiire, he said the political heads of the ministry are people who understand the mission and the detailed plan why EAC bloc, a conglomeration of Uganda, Kenya, Tanzania, Rwanda, Burundi and South Sudan, needs to politically federate.

"If you don't federate in your heads, you can't federate elsewhere," he said.

Currently, a team of constitutional experts led by the former Chief Justice of Uganda, Benjamin Odoki are traversing the region to gather views that will shape the drafting of the EAC constitution that will shape the political federation.

"When your mind is locked, nothing can be done. Currently, all parties have agreed to confederate, and I would like you to see that we federate," Kivejinja tasked Otafiire, the former justice minister.

Punctuating his remarks with humorous anecdotes, Otafiire, replied:  "I am here to learn. I am not going to perform miracles."

Currently, EAC has achieved a common market and common customs union, with common currency and political federation in the pipeline.

On the common currency, Otafiire said, it is something he would love to push during his tenure vehemently.

"There used to be a common currency until we go independence and we all got drunk with sovereignty and developed superegos as countries. So together we survive, separately we hang," he said, saying rather than concentrating on petty regional trade wars, buying Uganda, build Uganda should be refocused to buying Africa, build Africa.

Improving border markets, Otafiire added, is the other way trade can be spurred across the African continent and the region.

Asked about the emerging regional tensions, Otafiire said, he will answer the Rwanda-Uganda relations question after two years.

The acting permanent secretary of the ministry, Rose Alega, singled out inadequate funding as the major challenge of the East African Affairs ministry.

"Inadequate funding to conduct public awareness campaigns about East Africa and boost regional empowerment participation is a critical challenge," she said.

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