Statement by Rt Hon Daniel Fred Kidega, Speaker of EALA
Ladies & Gentlemen of the Press,
Good Morning! I welcome you all to this press briefing and thank you for your attendance. This being my first Press Conference this year, I wish all citizens of Uganda and the East African Community, a progressive 2017. I wish to notify you of the 4th Meeting of the 5th Session of the 3rd Assembly which commences here in Kampala, Uganda, from today, up until January 26th, 2017.
At this juncture, I salute his Excellency President Yoweri Kaguta Museveni and the entire Government of the Republic of Uganda for once more accepting to host EALA. We do not take this for granted.
I also in a special way thank our host, the Speaker of the Parliament of Uganda, Rt. Hon Rebecca Alitwala Kadaga, for granting us access to the facilities here at the Parliament of Uganda. This session takes place here in pursuit of the principle of rotation anchored on the provisions of Article 55 of the EAC Treaty on the one hand and on the other hand, bringing the Assembly closer to the people in line with the principle of people-centredness.
Over the two-weeks, the Assembly will consider the following notable business:
- receive the Official Address by H.E. Yoweri Kaguta Museveni at the Special Sitting on Tuesday, January 17th, 2017;
- debate on the following key Bills:
a) the EAC Gender Equality and Development Bill, 2016
b) the Administration of East African Court of Justice Bill, 2016,
c) the EAC Prohibition of Female Genital Mutilation Bill, 2016.
- receive and consider reports from various Committees of the Assembly including the Committee on Communication, Trade and Investments, the Committee on Accounts, Committee on Regional Affairs and Conflict Resolution and the Committee on Legal Rules and Privileges.
- EALA will also consider several Motions and Questions brought before the House.
The EAC is at an important period in the integration dispensation. Under the Customs Union, the region is implementing the Single Customs Territory regime which essentially enables faster movement of goods while enhancing the flow of transport from the ports to the Partner States.
The Common Market Protocol on its part, provides for free movement of goods, persons, services, labour, capital and the right to establishment and the right of residence. Some successes have been realized since the entry of the Common Market Protocol in 2010. Such include the introduction of the International E-Passports, movement using identity cards in some of the Partner States and reduction in Non-Tariff Barriers.
The second EAC Common Market Scorecard 2016, launched last October in Kampala, while revealing a number of reforms realized since 2014, still depicts non-conforming measures especially on trade liberalization of services and general compliance to the tenets of the Protocol.
All Partner States have shown political will to enforce the Protocol but there are still some fears and suspicions hampering the freedoms and the rights alluded to above. EALA and other stakeholders remain concerned over the delays in implementation of the Protocol.
The demands for reduction (or abolition altogether) of work permit fees, the need for standardization when it comes to issuance of the said permits and smoother and easier movement of persons from one Partner State to another, need to be speedily addressed.
The harmonization/approximation of Laws in the EAC context is also fundamental for the region to move in tandem. A report of the Committee on Rules and Privileges of the Oversight activity on approximation of national laws in Partner States adopted by the Assembly in November 2016, indicates that Republic of Rwanda and Uganda have each harmonized 10 laws, Tanzania (6 laws), Kenya (4 laws) and Burundi (3 Laws).
Let me also take this opportunity to urge the Council of Ministers to finalize the policy with regards to harmonization of academic and professional qualification regulations.
The Assembly is also keen to enact legislation on cross-border practice of professional services and on social security portability. This shall address the regional services’ market which is currently fragmented by restrictive policies, many pegged on nationalistic requirements, in licensing, qualification, regulatory and educational requirements. Such legislation would institute a framework for Professional workers across many sectors – be they legal, medical, education and others to move freely in the region thus operationalising Article 76 of the EAC Treaty.
Under the Monetary Union, EALA is pledging to work closely with the Council of Ministers to enact necessary legislations establishing the East African Monetary Institute, East African Financial Services Commission and the East African Surveillance, Compliance and Enforcement Commission among others.
The Partner States’ Central Banks have made tremendous progress with regards to financial sector integration, including commencing the harmonization of payment systems and financial markets. In order to attain the Monetary Union, the region should harmonize monetary and fiscal policies; and policies and standards on statistical information as well as establishment of an East African Central Bank.
We expect processes of some of these key pieces of legislation to be moved within the next few months before we wind down our tenure in June 2017.
EALA is also looking forward to the next Summit of EAC Heads of State that shall conclude among other matters, the Economic Partnership Agreements (EPAs). As an Assembly, we want the EPAs handled with utmost care taking into consideration our quest for industrialization so that a suitable decision that takes into consideration what is best for the region is achieved.
On matters of peace and security, the EAC is yet to be fully secure given the recent political and insecurity challenges. It is important to silence all guns in order to concentrate on developmental matters including the elimination of poverty. We also appeal to the Partner States to be more vigilant to contain terrorism which is still a challenge within the bloc.
Another major challenge facing the EAC today is funding. The matter is so critical that the Assembly and a number of Institutions and Organs literally postponed or reduced some of their activities last year. The contribution by Partner States which, stands at about 40% (actual 36.79%), paints a less than positive picture of the direction necessary to drive the Community.
In the regard, I appeal to the Partner States to make their full remittances immediately to enable the Community to undertake its projects. The Council of Ministers also needs to speedily implement the Sustainable Funding Mechanism for the EAC which is a directive of the