The East African Legislative Assembly (EALA) has blamed its Council of Ministers for delaying the ratification of the regional protocols which are meant to speed up and enable citizens to benefit from the community integration process which started in July 2000.
East African Community (EAC) is a regional intergovernmental organization of 7 Partner States: Burundi, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Kenya, Rwanda, South Sudan, Uganda, and Tanzania, with its headquarters in Arusha, Tanzania.
A report of the committee on the assessment of the status of the ratification and implementation of EAC protocols & Laws by the partner states presented during the 1st meeting of 5th session of the 4th assembly meeting in Kigali this October 31, 2022 showed that there has been a slow ratification despite the agreed on by respective executives having negotiating them in the first place.
Out of the 22 protocols that were supposed to be ratified to move a step in the EAC integration process only six are remaining and could hinder the anticipated progress.
The 6 protocols are: Protocol on Immunities and Privileges (2015); Cooperation in Meteorological Services (2016); Sanitary and Phytosanitary Measures 2013; Information, Communications and Technology (2015); Extended Jurisdiction of the East African Court of Justice (2015); Foreign Policy Coordination (2010) “The protocols are essential to the implementation of the EAC integration agenda however the legal frameworks on country level have not been ratified at country level ever since they were signed,” said MP Kennedy Mukulia Ayason (South Sudan), the chairperson on Legal Rules and Privileges.
Ayason said that Tanzania is lagging behind with three unsigned protocols and among the other member states Burundi, Uganda, DRC and South Sudan they have at least one protocol to ratify. Rwanda has one (Sanitary and Phytosanitary Measures) that is partially worked on.
Ayason said that these delays are because some countries are having issues of bureaucracy in the process of ratification but also concerns with different laws in partner states, poor national consultation even when the protocols have been adopted by the councils.
The committee said that the delay in some protocols has a negative impact on the community at large.
For example- lack of Sanitary and Phytosanitary Measures will not see EAC have standards on consumable foods to avoid aflatoxins while the non-unified ICT laws will affect the digital transformation.
In other areas, the lack of Foreign Policy Coordination could limit chances of citizens in locations where they have no embassy in getting counselor services from other EAC embassies.
Presenting the status, the committee recommended immediate ratification of all pending protocols to pave way for the next steps of EAC integration pillars which is currently in the third phase of the Monetary Union following the Customs and Common Market pillars.
EALA Speaker Martin Ngoga (Rwanda) asked why member states are sitting on the protocols which they already agreed to and negotiated at the executive level and called for immediate action if the EAC is to move to the fourth pillar of integration (Political Federation).
The 4th assembly session also tackled the issue of lack of the Amendment to Article 24 (2) of the Protocol on the Establishment of the East African Community Customs Union- which allows the community to set up a committee to handle claims of traders but none of the countries has done so.
The assembly also was concerned of the implementation with the EAC vehicle load control Act, 2016 which has also been violated by member countries and some countries like Tanzania have put in place weigh bridges without the consent of the Council as provided in the act.
The session reported that the failure to abide by this act, has also seen heavy load drivers complain of being fined twice for using ‘abnormal’ (wide load) vehicles and charged for overload in some countries creating a confusion between the two fines which are not in their countries of origin.