At the Ministerial Meeting in Addis Ababa, the EAC was cited as the most-integrated especially in the area of finance and macro-economic policy convergence.
Christabel Ligami spoke with the EAC deputy secretary-general in charge of political federation, Charles Njoroge, on when the region will fully integrate.
At what stage of EAC integration are we?
Partner states are looking for experts to draft the constitution that will guide on what kind of a federation the region will take. We expect at least three people from all the partner states to be in charge of drafting the constitution.
The deadline for having a Political Federation had been set for 2016, so what are the new timelines?
We cannot have timelines without a constitution. The regional constitution will be the guide towards the federation. It will clearly define what should be achieved at what time, when the region should have the federation, when it will be launched and over what period it will be implemented. For now there are no timelines until the constitution is in place.
In November we expect the Heads of State to approve the list of experts who will be in charge of writing the EAC constitution thereafter the process of a political federation will commence.
There is the issue of disparate constitutions, with some members having done away with the presidential term limits. How will this be handled?
The constitutional team will determine that. They will guide the partner states but the final decision lies in the hands of the EAC Heads. What the experts will propose will be adopted or sent back for amendments by the presidents.
So far, what have the partner states agreed on?
In the last few consultative meetings, the partner states except one, agreed that they should have a confederation, meaning that as much as they will become one, countries will still retain some level of sovereignty. How much of their sovereignty they relinquish will be defined in the constitution.
They have also agreed to have a political federation that comes into being in a gradual and incremental process.
Who is not in agreement?
Tanzania requested for more time to consult on the issues. They said that since they have a new president, they needed time to brief him on the development and get his opinion on it.
Have the partner states agreed on what kind of presidency the EAC will have once it becomes a federation?
As it is now, the federation will have one president on a rotational basis just as it is with the chairmanship of the EAC since they will still retain some of their sovereignty. This will be the easiest and best option. The same is with the African Union, where the chairman who serves for one year is the legal spokesman of the continent.
Uganda’s President Yoweri Museveni has long advocated the fast-tracking of the political federation, emphasising that the region should not only be an economic bloc, but also a political one. Are you pressured to fasttrack the process?
No one has asked us to fasttrack the process. The EAC political federation is the fourth and last pillar of the EAC integration, which will fully integrate the people of the region in all aspects of life. This means that we can have a fully-fledged political federation only after all the other pillars are in place.
The Customs Union, Common Market Protocol and the Monetary Union, which was signed last year by the Heads of State, are under implementation. The Monetary Union which is the third pillar will be implemented in the next eight years. So wait for the federation a year or so after that.
How will the new entrants into the community become members of the federation?
The Treaty is very clear on this and the constitution will give direction on it too. But as per the Treaty, as long as a country joins the community as a member and sign to the Treaty, they accept to the principles of the Community and its integration pillars. So unless the Treaty is amended, it remains that any partner state that joins the Community automatically becomes a member of the Federation. It also means that all the EAC member states will join the federation at the same time and not on the principle of variable geometry.
As it looks the Political Federation entirely depends on the constitution. So when do we have this constitution?
We could say sometime next year. Thereafter it will go for approval by the partner states before the final approval by the presidents.