High hopes as EAC begins journey to single currency

L-R: Presidents Pierre Nkurunziza of Burundi, Jakaya Kikwete of Tanzania, Uhuru Kenyatta of Kenya, Yoweri Museveni of Uganda and Paul Kagame of Rwanda display the signed Monetary Union treaty at Speke Resort Munyonyo yesterday. PHOTO BY STEPHEN WANDERA.

What you need to know:

Other issues that the Summit agreed on include extension of the jurisdiction of the East African Court of Justice to adjudicate on trade and investment, and matters associated with the East African Monetary Union.

Tanzania’s President Jakaya Kikwete yesterday joined his Kenyan, Ugandan, Rwandan and Burundian colleagues in Kampala to sign the East African Community Monetary Union Protocol.

This puts to rest earlier speculation that Tanzania was reluctant to sign the regional framework. Tanzania argued that its slow decision was dictated by the need to get the input of its citizens.

Kenya’s president Uhuru Kenyatta, said now that the five heads of state have appended their signatures to the document, their economies would benefit immensely.

The Tanzanian president sat closer to his Burundian counterpart throughout the EAC Extraordinary Summit.

“As we integrate, we cease to be a group of neighbouring nations and become one people. I assure all that our Community is strong and your leaders’ commitment to it is unwavering. Let us all put an end to unnecessary rumour mongering,” President Kenyatta said drawing applause.

He, however, added that it would be necessary for the Community to intensify civic education and sensitise all East African citizens about the benefits.

According to a communiqué issued by the EAC Secretariat at the end of the summit, all the partner states should conclude the ratification of the Protocol by July 2014.

The Council of Ministers is expected to implement the road-map of a single currency. The Community will have to establish the East African Monetary Institute, the East African Statistics Bureau, the East African Surveillance Compliance and Enforcement Commission and the East African Finance Commission to implement the Monetary Union.

The Council of Ministers is also expected to appraise the Summit on the progress of the implementation of the road-map to a single currency at every ordinary summit.

Other issues that the Summit agreed on include extension of the jurisdiction of the East African Court of Justice to adjudicate on trade and investment, and matters of the Monetary Union.

The Summit directed the Council of Ministers to take up the matter of human rights and crimes against humanity.

The Summit directed that the East African Passport be launched by November 2015.

The Summit discussed the prevailing security situation and the need for concerted efforts towards combating terrorism and negative forces in the region.

It further noted the recent security developments in Somalia and asked all the parties to embrace dialogue and create an enabling environment for implementation of Somalia’s Vision 2016 and to facilitate elections by 2016.

It took note of the UN Security Council’s resolution 2024, adopted on November 12, 2013 regarding enhancing the military capacity of Amisom and the Somali army and called for a review of the resource package to sustain the military campaign against al-Shabaab.

The Summit reiterated its continued support for the government of Somalia and called on the international community to support economic, social and political interventions to enable the Somali government fulfil its obligations.

Meanwhile, President Museveni has lashed out at people who employ tribalism and religion to divide the population, particularly against the regional integration, a process he said has the cure to the biting poverty and low income levels that a section of the population is grappling with.

Speaking in at Kololo Ceremonial Grounds in Kampala after the signing of the Monetary Union Protocol, President Museveni equated the forces that are against EAC integration to daydreamers.

He said: “Those who are talking about tribes and religion are the kind of people who are sleeping during the day—out of touch with the reality.”

He continued: “The bigger the market, the better for businesses. I can tell you that if I am selling my milk, I wouldn’t care about religion or your tribe.”

Opportunity for wealth
According to the President, the regional integration provides Ugandans with opportunity to tap more wealth for themselves, develop their country through inter-regional trade and ultimately walk out of poverty as a result of increased income got by the virtue of the larger EAC market.

“The strength is on numbers,” President Museveni said before expressing regrets on behalf the other heads of state, namely President Uhuru Kenyatta, President Jakaya Kikwete, President Paul Kagame and President Pierre Nkurunziza whom he said were not able to make it to Kololo to address the public about the protocol they signed earlier in the day.

According to the President, the four Heads of State decided to retire for lunch and thereafter would be flying back to their respective countries.

And for that, there wasn’t enough time for them to make it to the ground as earlier scheduled.

President Museveni further said the regional market has numerous advantages over the local ones where only similar commodities are produced and traded.

He said: “I am a cattle keeper and so are the people around me. This means If I want to do business, I have to look at people who do not have milk and sell my product to them. And that is where the regional market is important.”

He added that the wider EAC market comes in handy when there are issues with local markets in urban areas and cities.

He argues that should there be a problem with Kampala, which is the biggest market in the country, produce and other local products will simply find its way to the regional market, an alternative he said is good for the country.