EAC member states keen to have Political Confederation in place

Principal Secretary, State Department for East African Community Abdi Dubat said so far, the three pillars towards EAC integration are at their various stages of achievements.

"The political federation process, which is at an advanced stage will include public participation of collecting views from various groups from member states apart from Uganda and Burundi," said Dubat during an interview in his office.

Uganda, he said finished their process between April 23 to May 4, 2021 while Burundi between January 14 to 20, 2020.

Dubat said various steps have been taken by the Summit to establish a Political Federation of East Africa.

"These efforts gained momentum in 2004 but it was realised that not all the Partner States were yet ready for that stage of integration. As a result, they agreed on a transitional stage - a Confederation, as decided by the 18th Ordinary Summit of Heads of State in 2017," said Dubat.

The Summit, he said in 2004 set up a committee dubbed the Wako Committee, to carry out wide consultations and examine ways and means of expediting the process.

The 20th Summit further decided that President Yoweri Kaguta Museveni of Uganda shall provide political guidance to the Constitution drafting exercise.

''The Partner States have each nominated two constitutional experts and a legislative draftsperson to constitute the team and Kenya has two including former Attorney General and Busia Senator Amos Wako and Peter Kiguta with Ms Linda Murila as legislative draftsperson,'' he said.

From the national surveys carried out in the Partner States between 2007 and 2009, he said there was overwhelming support for political federation.

However, there were certain Fears, Challenges and Concerns (FCCs) that needed to be addressed.

Dubat disclosed that at its 31st EAC Council of Ministers meeting, it established a sub-committee of Ministers responsible for EAC Affairs to consider the concept note, the terms of reference, roadmap for constitution making process, determine the model for the EAC Political Federation and present a report for consideration by the 32 second Meeting of the Council.

The sub-committee submitted its report to the 33rd Meeting of the Council of Ministers.

Dubat said at its 21st Ordinary Meeting, the Summit received a progress report on the constitutional development of the Political Confederation and directed the Council to expedite the constitutional development process.

''The constitutional experts have concluded the preliminary situational analysis of the EAC institutional and legal frameworks, as well as international contexts analysis of similar confederation constitutions,'' the PS said.

The experts, he said have now embarked on stakeholders' consultations of this process within the Partner States in order to solicit participation of EAC citizens and government authorities in drafting the Constitution.

The progress made so far include The National Consultations on EAC Political Confederation Constitution which was launched in October in 2019 in Entebbe.

"For Kenya, it is scheduled to take place from May 8 to 31, 2023 across nine regions covering 47 counties with representatives from business community, civil societies, county government officials, special interest groups(women, youth, People Living with Disabilities(PWDs), religious organisations, academia and media ,'' said Dubat.

The stakeholders consultation launch will first be done in Mombasa County on August 8 by Cabinet Secretary of EAC, Arid and Semi-Arid Lands (Asal) and Regional Development.

The key issues around which the consultations will be made among others will include what should be the areas of cooperation under the Political Confederation, how should the governing structure of the Political Confederation be and what should be the modes of decision-making by the confederal authority.

The move comes 60 years later at the time of independence (in 1961 for Tanganyika, 1962 for Uganda, 1963 for Kenya) and unification of Tanganyika with Zanzibar to form the United Republic of Tanzania (in 1964).

The three young nations strongly articulated their desire to establish a Political Federation but failed.

When it failed to materialise in 1963, a compromise was successfully negotiated to set up an institutionalised Common Market, known as the East African Community.

"This was established by the Treaty for East African Cooperation signed in Kampala on June 6, 1967 which entered into force on December 1 of the same year,'' said the PS.

The then EAC lasted 10 years (1967-1977) before it collapsed, mainly due to the lack of strong political will, lack of strong participation of the private sector and civil society in the co-operation activities.