At the French Bastille Day celebrations held at the country’s embassy in Uganda on July 13, guests were kept waiting for a chief guest whom the hosts were reluctant to name.
Guests were treated to specially selected fine French wines, but the officials constantly kept checking the time.
After what seemed like an eternity, Uganda’s President Yoweri Museveni finally arrived and the programme proceeded.
In his speech, President Museveni went into depth about French history and the significance of the storming of the Bastille, a turning point in the search for equality, dignity and respect.
Then he moved on to talk about trade and markets between the developed West and Africa, calling for an equal partnership and not the superior-minor partnership that had catalysed the French revolution in 1789.
As if speaking off script, President Museveni then talked about the Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA) between the European Union and the East African Community.
The deal was expected to be signed on July 18. He asked for patience, so that the EAC Heads of State can discuss and agree on a way forward on the trade deal.
“We shall not be signing this agreement until we have discussed it. So advise the European Union Commission’s ambassador not to get excited,” President Museveni told the largely European audience.
Not fully briefed
President Museveni said the EAC Heads of State had not been fully briefed on the agreement until only recently, saying the discussions that have been running since 2002 were mainly handled by ministers, though the magnitude of the deal required a decision by the presidents.
Initially, it had been anticipated that the agreement would be signed at the side lines of the Unctad conference, which was held in Nairobi, Kenya. However, as concerns emerged, it is understood that the deadline could have been pushed forward by a month.
Tanzania, known as a more cautious member of the EAC bloc and host of its Secretariat had earlier raised the alarm about the EPA because of Britain’s exit from the European Union.
Kenya, which is seen as a major beneficiary of the deal, is understood to be lobbying for it to be signed and has the backing of Rwanda and Burundi. However, Uganda and Tanzania remain sceptical and they are key influencers.