Highs and lows of Peter Mathuki era at EAC head office in Arusha

Sunday April 21 2024
Dr Peter Mathuki

The East African Community (EAC) Secretary General, Peter Mathuki speaking to the press during a past event. PHOTO | NMG


The decision by the East African Community Council of Ministers to appoint the Deputy Secretary-General Annette Ssemuwemba to act as the boss in Arusha awaiting the swearing-in of Veronica Nduva marked the premature end of Peter Mathuki’s term at the regional bloc.

Critics have described the tenure of the outgoing Dr Mathuki, who was last month nominated as Kenya’s envoy to Moscow, as a mixed bag.

Dr Mathuki’s was appointed on April 23, 2021, as the second Kenyan to hold the post since Francis Muthaura, who served between March 14, 1996 to April 24, 2001.

Dr Mathuki’s resignation, if there was any, was not publicised. An internal memo communicating the changes seemed to signal his unceremonial exit.

Read: Kenya writes to EAC recalling Mathuki

Dr Mathuki presided over the EAC Secretariat at a time the bloc marking an expansion trajectory, overseeing the entry of the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Somalia as the seventh and eighth members of the bloc.


He was also credited with the mooting and deployment of the East African Community Regional Force in DRC, where they served for a year before they were kicked out by an unhappy Kinshasa last December. He pursued an expansionist agenda, seeking to bring in the Horn countries and pushing for the transitioning of the secretariat into a commission.

Last year, he received a title for 125 acres in Arusha donated by the government of Tanzania for use by the EAC to build its modern headquarters.

The region’s private sector acknowledges that under Dr Mathuki’s stewardship, the EAC has undergone a remarkable expansion with the admission of the DRC and Somalia.

With a combined population of more than 300 million people, the EAC now encompasses a vast consumer base, providing businesses with access to new markets and fostering economic growth across sectors.

“We expanded the EAC by the admission of DRC and Somalia, which is good for the private sector now as this is a market of 320 million people. But we did not achieve this with the deepening of the integration process,” said John Kalisa, CEO of the East African Business Council.

“In terms of deepening the integration, in 2024, we are supposed to achieve a monetary union of one single currency, by putting together all the institutions to start operation in 2024, but now we have pushed it for the next 10 years. The private sector is not happy by pushing the dates further,” Mr Kalisa told The EastAfrican.

Dr Mathuki pushed the new fourth band common external tariff structure which the business community welcomed.

Read: EAC to digitise tariffs for imported goods

His relentless advocacy for the region’s competitiveness saw the Community adopt 35percent as the fourth band of the EAC Common External Tariff (CET), with the harmonised CET under implementation.

This initiative was aimed at promoting local production, value addition, and industrialisation, bolstering the region’s competitiveness on the global marketplace.

Dr Mathuki served as CEO of EABC between 2018 and 2021, and was a legislator at the East African Legislative Assembly. The business community, therefore, expected more.

“Generally the private sector were frustrated that he was more involved in politics and security issues than fostering the interests of the private sector investors in the EAC,” said Mr Kalisa.

When he took office in 2021, Dr Mathuki committed to increase the EAC’s intr-trade from 16 percent to 40 percent. This is yet to be achieved.

“For over 10 years the EAC’s intra-trade still stands at 16 percent yet we and the SG committed to move it to 40 percent in five years, though he served for three years,” said Kalisa.

The EABC faulted him for failing to hold a single secretary general-CEOs round table in the past three years.

The round tables are traditionally the forums where the EAC and the private sector canvass since the re-establishment of the EAC in 1999.

As was with his predecessor, Liberat Mfumukeko, there was also no love lost between Dr Mathuki and the legislators at Eala.

At the time of his recall MPs were pushing for his censure over the expenditure of some $6 million without the approval of the assembly.

Ugandan legislator Paul Musamali during the debate on President William Ruto’s speech at the opening of the Nairobi session said member countries should deploy to the EAC Secretariat competent people who are “ideologically oriented and clear about the mission and vision of the East African integration agenda”.