Rwandan president Paul Kagame has criticised the East African Community (EAC) for being “too expensive” and promised to stop his ministers from travelling for meetings as a way of cutting expenditure.
Mr Kagame who delivered his criticism of the regional body during his address to Rwanda’s 2016 Leaders’ Retreat, said he got the inspiration from Tanzanian president John Pombe Magufuli, who during the EAC heads of state summit last week, accused the secretariat of “blowing up funds recklessly.”
“Ministers now have consultancy works for other countries than working for their own country. President Magufuli has stopped them. It has come to where the cost of closing travels for EAC meetings is less costly,” he said.
Mr Kagame promised to “tighten things up”, after having been extremely patient with the excessive expenditure incurred by the bloc through unnecessary flights for EAC meetings, which he said happen at least thrice a week. One “simple” way of cutting such costs, Mr Kagame said, is by entrusting all bloc activities to his minister of EAC affairs Ambassador Valentine Rugwabiza, instead of having his ministers travel to bloc meetings.
“The EAC minister can do it. I can afford to have her in Arusha as some kind of ambassador. If any of you (ministers) wants anything to do in Arusha, tell her and let her do it. We can back her up with one or two people to help her make dossiers for the community,” he said.
He added: “If Rwanda needs to confirm attendance of ministers for EAC meetings to happen, then the meetings will not happen. I am counting and cutting my losses on this one. This is not going to happen again.”
Mr Magufuli, who is the chairperson of the EAC, accused the secretariat of wasting “meager resources” and threatened to sack employees who do not devise means of cutting expenditure.
The 2016 annual National Leadership Retreat brought together Rwanda’s senior leaders to discuss national priorities, affirm the country’s shared vision to become a knowledge- driven, middle-income country by 2020 and renew momentum to achieve development objectives. An estimated 250 leaders from Central and Local Government, parastatals and the private sector are in attendance.
Key topics to be discussed during the three-day retreat include improving delivery towards the achievements of Vision 2020 targets, revamping the manufacturing sector,the Rwandan Child, guaranteeing rights and promoting social welfare. President Kagame asked leaders not to accept or tolerate mediocrity because it is not the way Rwandans should work in pursuit of solutions to their problems.