By Michael Okidi

DSC 4917The 3rd Speaker’s Roundtable on the East African Community (EAC) Integration, held at the Nairobi Intercontinental Hotel last week, recommended a number of intervention measures aimed at deepening and widening the regional integration process.

Organized as a forum for addressing Kenya’s strategic interests in the EAC for a deeper role in the integration process, the Speaker’s Roundtable offers an opportunity for Members of Parliament and Senators to review various aspects of the integration agenda with a view to ensure legislative support for positive agreements, programmes and resolutions.

The forum sought to sensitize Members of Parliament on the key programmes and projects of the EAC integration agenda, the status of implementation of the various protocols and pillars of the EAC and their role to give legislative support for the success of the regional bloc.

Key Among the recommendations reached at the forum included the conversion of the Parliamentary Select Committee on Regional Integration into a Departmental Committee to enhance the gains and benefits realizable under the integration agenda.

Other recommendations included a resolution by Members of Parliament to support legislation of EAC issues that come up for parliamentary decision-making and parliamentary support for increased budgetary allocation to the State Department of East African Affairs to meet its obligations of coordinating EAC affairs in Kenya.

The forum, officiated by National Assembly Speaker Justin Muturi and Labour and East African Affairs Cabinet Secretary Phylllis Kandie, further called for amendment of East African Legislative Assembly (EALA) Rules of Procedure to allow for easier and better participation of National Assemblies of Partner States in the Community’s legislative process.

Speaker Muturi noted the rapid growth through which the EAC was undergoing, making it one of the fastest growing regional blocs in the world.  This, he said, had attracted the interest of neighbouring countries which had already shown interest in becoming members of the regional bloc.

He said that the Roundtable was expected to come up with clear and workable strategies that should continually give Kenya comparative advantage in the implementation and realization of the objectives of the Community.

This, he noted, calls for deeper understanding by the MPs on Kenya’s common position on the EAC integration issues as well as improved capacity to articulate opportunities and benefits accruable from the process.

He noted the various achievements already realized through the EAC integration, among them, the establishment of the One Stop Border Posts (OSBPs), the elimination of Non Tariff barriers (NTBs) that had often hindered free movement of persons and the increasing cooperation between the public and private sectors in support of regional integration.

However, the Speaker noted that a few challenges, among them the need for more intensified sensitization of ordinary citizens on the integration opportunities and benefits, full implementation of the EAC Common Market concept and harmonization of national laws with the EAC Common Market for smooth implementation of various resolutions and agreements, still needed to be addressed.

On her part, Mrs Kandie reiterated the importance of regional integration as a key driver for economic and socio-political prosperity, noting that the EAC, with a combined market of over 140 million people, offers the best opportunity for joint development of the Partner States.

She also noted that implementations of the various EAC protocols, the East African Legislative Assembly and Summit directives, requires amendment, harmonization and approximation of individual national laws to align them with EAC legal requirements.

The forum was also addressed by former Head of the Civil Service, who was also the first Secretary General of the EAC Amb. Francis Muthaura, Leader of majority in the national Assembly Aden Duale, Chairperson of Parliamentary Select Committee on Regional Integration Florence Kajuju and Principal Secretary for State Department of East African Affairs, Betty Maina, among others.