President Kagame has warned that the goals of the region and the continent would not be achieved if African leaders get lost in counterproductive divisions and prioritise narrow interests over the common good. Speaking during his address to the special sitting of the East African Legislative Assembly (EALA) at Parliament today, he highlighted the importance of working together to advance everybody’s interests.
“There are two parts of this to keep in mind. First, when the good progress made internally by each country is aggregated, the benefits are even better for everybody in our region. Second, there is no disadvantage from minding each other’s business, which simply means taking our respective needs and interests seriously and indeed adopting them as common objectives,” he said.
Kagame pointed out that as a result of political will in response to the aspirations of citizens, EAC member states had worked together to significantly deepen regional integration.
“People move more freely than ever before and communication within the region has become more affordable and convenient,” he remarked. “It is easier to trade and do business with each other and we are collaborating to expand energy and transportation infrastructure. All this has generated a good deal of excitement among our citizens and in the markets as well. East Africa is increasingly perceived as a region on the move.We have to continue to meet these high expectations. We therefore count on you, in the oversight role of our regional legislature, to help ensure we maintain momentum and stay on course.”
The President said that collective action and harmonised policies would help the region to manage the consequences of economic growth as people worked to stimulate the manufacturing sector.
Giving an update on the recently adopted decision to complete the institutional reform of the African Union and ensure that it is sustainably financed from Africa’s own resources, he said the main objective was to create an African Union that is fit-for-purpose.
“Our continent must also have a strong and unified voice that clearly communicates the aspirations and positions of Africa on the global stage. The reforms agreed upon will bring us much closer to this goal if they are implemented without delay. Of particular note for the EALA is the decision to direct more responsibility for the implementation of Africa’s common development agenda to the Regional Economic Communities.”
Kagame further challenged EALA to enhance its oversight role in ensuring the EAC meets its desired objectives.
“We count on you, in the oversight role of our regional legislature to help ensure we maintain momentum and stay on course,” he remarked.
The President took the opportunity to speak a few words in Kiswahili, which recently became an official national language in Rwanda, raising much applause from the legislators.
“Napenda kumalizia kwa kuwakaribisha tena Rwanda na kuwatakia kila la heri katika majadiliano yenu wakati wote wa kikao (It pleases me to welcome you once again to Rwanda and to wish you well during your entire Plenary Sitting here),” he said.
“I am happy as has been mentioned that Rwanda has adopted Kiswahili as an official language, in line with one of the key resolutions of EALA,” Kagame observed.
The Fifth Meeting of the Fifth Session of the Third Assembly will sit in Kigali from March 6 until March 16.
The speaker of the Assembly, Daniel F. Kidega, reiterated the need for the region to collectively address and find solutions to the challenges it faces, highlighting pursuit for peace and security, drought, climate change and the unemployment bulge.
“Ideally, time has come for the EAC to draw on its collective economic, social and intellectual resources to address the imminent challenges it faces,” Kidega said.
“Of equal importance is tolerance by Partner States within the framework of the integration process, to tackle the region’s pursuit for peace and security, drought, climate change, the unemployment bulge and other pressing issues,” he added.
The Speaker called for concerted efforts towards the industrialisation process of the region.
“There is need to embrace industrialization by instituting supportive trade-related policies and frameworks that grant Partner States the right to nurture nascent industries in order to develop their competitiveness and grow economies,” Kidega noted.
He said the EAC was looking towards greatly benefitting from the operationalization of the Single Customs Territory resulting in increased intra-regional trade. In this regard, Rt Hon Kidega called for emphasis on investor confidence, enterprise and creation of a conducive environment to spur trade.
The Speaker appealed to President Kagame and his colleagues at the Summit of EAC Heads of State to ensure the funding situation which he deemed as dire, is speedily addressed.
The president of the Rwandan Senate, Bernard Makuza, lauded the rotational sittings noting it had enabled regular interactions with citizens of the Partner States. He said it was therefore necessary to reflect on the developments over the last five years at the Assembly and at the EAC while calling for the intensification of the integration process.