Kenyan President Mwai Kibaki has called for a bigger East African Community (EAC), saying that an enlarged bloc is a pillar for peace and stability. Kibaki made the observation during the second meeting of the first session of the East African Legislative Assembly (EALA) currently taking place in Nairobi, Kenya. “I am also looking forward to the future expansion of the EAC. We welcome the interest of Sudan, South Sudan, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Ethiopia and Somalia in joining the EAC. We should facilitate their membership,” he told a multitude of EALA legislators.
Both Sudans and Somalia have already expressed interest in joining the regional bloc, which so far has five member states of Burundi, Kenya, Rwanda, Tanzania and Uganda. However, an EAC Council of Ministers in Bujumbura last week called for putting on hold the admission of South Sudan until partner states fully understand its level of conformity with the desired standards. “A strong and prosperous EAC is the pillar to the stability of our region. Let us all play our roles in strengthening and expanding the EAC,” Kibaki said.
In March this year, Somalia made an official request in a letter to President Kibaki, who is the current chair of the EAC, to join the grouping. The ministers also called for proper timing and wider consultations with other international players involved in the Somali peace initiatives before Somalia joins the EAC. The Kenyan President further urged the assembly and the Council of Ministers to collaborate more on mechanisms to initiate laws to enforce the expeditious implementation of the Customs Union and the Common Market Protocols. This, he noted, will enable citizens of EAC to reap benefits from the integration process.
Meanwhile, EALA Speaker, Margaret Nantongo Zziwa, said it was time the region enhanced its rail network system noting that it would ensure availability of efficient and cheap transport. “We note with concern that since the 1920s, limited improvements in terms of rail-lines have been added on to the existing network. So we are banking on Your Excellency for support in the area”, the Speaker told Kibaki.
Various speakers called for the removal of Non-Tariff Barriers so as to spur trade and called for effective communication of policies agreed upon across the region to enable the seamless flow of goods and services.