Kenyan President William Ruto wants the treaty establishing the East African Community (EAC) amended to reflect current status of the bloc including its membership.
At a meeting with the Speaker of the East African Legislative Assembly (EALA) Mr Joseph Nkakirutimana, Ruto said it was inappropriate to use a formative law created in 1999 to manage an expanded membership.
He says the bloc must adapt to the needs of new members including language needs as well as openness to admit new members without restrictions used more than 24 years ago.
When it was formed in 1999, the EAC was recreating the collapsed bloc in 1977 where Kenya, Uganda and Tanzania were members. It later expanded to include Rwanda as well as Burundi in 2007 and later South Sudan in 2016 before the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) joined last year. Somalia is currently being assessed on eligibility.
“Somalia is likely to join after an assessment is completed. There is also a possibility that Ethiopia and Sudan could join the EAC,” the president said at state house, Nairobi.
President Ruto also said the bloc must adjust to include enabling members to tap into benefits from the community.
“It is time to look at the treaty, especially over languages used at EALA. Of course, Kiswahili will continue playing a very big role in the assembly,” Ruto said.
The formative law of the bloc says admission of new members should be based on geographic proximity to an existing member including constant interactions. It also says new members should adhere to common values such as stability, democratic good governance and pay regular obligatory fees to the bloc.
And until 2021, the official language was English, even when official languages of some of the members is French. In an EAC Heads of State Summit in 2021, French language was formally endorsed as an official lingua franca, but this has not been adjusted in the treaty.
President William Ruto, however, commended the progress the EAC has made since it was established.
A state house dispatch indicated that the EALA speaker had asked for a review of the treaty. One area the EALA wants is financial autonomy for the law-making organ. Although its staff are assigned as temporary, some have reportedly worked at the EAC for more than two decades.
Ruto met the EALA speaker alongside Kenya’s EAC Cabinet Secretary Rebecca Miano, Kenya EALA MPs Hassan Omar, Kanini Kega and Zipporah Kering, as well as EALA Deputy Clerk John Mutega.
The speaker had earlier met with Kenya’s Senate Speaker Moses Wetangula who suggested the EALA should have its MPs directly elected by people.
“If you look at the European Parliament, it started exactly the same way as EALA whereby the respective parliaments of member states, through the electoral college by electing respective members. But within fifteen years, the EU transformed into election of its members by universal suffrage.
“That is the only way we can get the general population to know and understand about EALA,’’ Wetangula said.