The East Africa Community (EAC) has asked the European Union not to punish Kenyan agricultural products exported to Europe.
A heads of states summit in Dar es Salaam resolved to petition the EU on behalf of Kenya and agreed to dispatch Ugandan president Yoweri Museveni, the new EAC chairman to present Kenya’s case.
President Museveni, the new chairman of EAC, said his first assignment is to harmonise the organisation’s position on the Economic Partnership Agreements (EPAs) that allows countries in the region to export their agricultural products to Europe without attracting tax.
Mr Museveni told the 18th Ordinary Summit of EAC Heads of States in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, on Saturday that the EAC was committed to solving the stalemate surrounding the EPAs once and for all.
Mr Museveni warned EU against punishing Kenya, which has already signed the agreement.
“I want to assure this summit that my first assignment is to lead a delegation to Brussels, Belgium, in my capacity as new chairman to give our stand on the matter as well as ask them not to punish Kenya on the matter as we come up with a lasting solution to the problem,” said President Museveni.
“We object any move by EU to harm Kenya as far as EU-EAC issues are concerned. What we mean is that Kenya should not be disadvantaged since the country has already signed the agreement,” added President Museveni.
He said EAC is committed to harmonising the region’s stand on the EPAs
Tanzania President John Pombe Magufuli, who is the outgoing EAC chairman, was present at the meeting.
Deputy President William Ruto attended the forum on behalf of President Uhuru Kenyatta.
Presidents Paul Kagame (Rwanda), Salva Kiir (South Sudan) and Pierre Nkurunziza (Burundi) were represented in the summit whose theme was "towards sustainable growth and development of the community".
Security and unity
Mr Museveni, who took over the leadership of EAC Summit from Mr Magufuli, said EAC integration was about prosperity, security and unity of all citizens in the region.
Earlier, during the closed session, Mr Ruto asked EAC governments to urgently address non-tariff barriers that have become stumbling block to cross-border trade in the region.
The Deputy President said it was essential for the respective governments to boost cross-border trading, movement of goods and manpower and address the fundamental issue of non-tariff barriers across the region.
He said unless EAC governments worked together in addressing challenges facing the region, the gains which have been made so far could be eroded.
Mr Ruto said there was no need for EAC governments to engage in activities aimed at undermining and blocking each other, saying doing so could be for the benefit of outsiders.
“While we fight and block each other, our businesses are struggling and our import bills is growing. We need to stop this misdirected competition that only benefits outsiders,” said Mr Ruto.
“We started well and we need to keep the promise to our people. It is unfortunate that in recent years, as we heard today, our internal market is shrinking behind the various blockades through non-tariff barriers and other blocks,” said Mr Ruto.
President Magufuli said though as chairman he did not find a lasting solution to the EU-EAC trade deal, he was optimistic the issue will soon be solved.
“Although I didn’t find lasting solution to the EU-EAC trade deal, I am optimistic that the new chairman will solve the impasse with the support of all of us,” said President Magufuli.
He said unity remains key to the success of EAC integration.
“For us to achieve the goals of EAC, we must unite and work as a team in solving the problems facing this region as well as accelerating the integration process,” said Mr Magufuli.
Mr Museveni said the EAC was committed to solving insecurity challenges being witnessed in South Sudan and Burundi.