The 20-day national consultations for drafting the constitution for the proposed East African Community (EAC) Political Confederation concluded in Kenya with majority of Kenyans calling for a direct move to a political federation.
President William Ruto, who asked the team of experts to fast-track the process and have the first draft of the constitution by end of June 2024, pledged $1 million to help speed up the process.
“East Africans want to live together and do business regardless of national boundaries. The EAC partner states should therefore endeavour to catch up with them and actualise the political confederation as fast as possible,” said President Ruto.
Kenya is the third partner state, after Burundi and Uganda, to conduct national consultations on the kind of political union desired under the EAC. Tanzania is the next destination for the committee of experts followed by Rwanda.
The consultations launched in Mombasa on May 9 by the Committee of Constitutional Experts for Drafting the EAC Political Federation Constitution are spearheaded by a regional team of law experts, led by former Ugandan chief justice Benjamin Odoki and former attorney general Amos Wako.
During the forums, Kenyans said they wanted an EAC that would be led by a commission similar to that of the European Union, rather than a secretariat. Others wanted the EAC to proceed to a political federation.
“When we listened to their views, there was nobody who was opposed to greater political social and economic integration. They were all supporting of a political confederation. They were all supportive to the confederation. In fact, some were saying we should not waste too much time on the confederation. We should just go straight to a federation,” said Wako in an interview with The East African.
President Ruto called for a borderless EAC, similar to the EU, sentiments that were shared across the country.
“We should work together and collapse all the boundaries for the sake of integration,” said President Ruto.
Attempts to fast track to a political federation have been hampered by a slow pace of integration, poor funding, competing political interests and perceived leadership ambitions.
Dr Ruto cited prosperity for the region, strategic economy and security and the fact that East Africans were peoples of the same origins as the major reasons why the region needs to integrate and embrace the unity of the region.
The EAC is still aspiring to achieve a monetary union, whose dateline has been pushed from the 2024 to 2031.
“Political federation requires an organisation where there will be a centre of authority independent institutions to strengthen direction of control at the top,” said Justice Odoki.
The European Union is currently in a monetary union with also some characteristics of a political union.
Since the signing of the treaty of Rome in 1957 the European Union has developed into an internal single market through a standardized system of laws that apply in all member Countries and into a Monetary Union with a single Currency-the Euro.
A monetary union was established in 1999 and came into full force in 2002. It is comprised of 19 EU member states which use the Euro as a common currency in contrast to the EAC which is yet to operationalise the monetary union.
During the final date of submission, the EAC Secretary General Dr Peter Mathuki revealed that majority of Kenyans wanted a borderless EAC that would allow complete free movement, residency and trade, similar to what the EU offers its citizens.
“The stakeholders in Kenya have spoken their minds and recommended a common EAC ID must take priority in the confederation; a confederation to create structures to deal with cross border security and prevent crimes; and a common foreign policy- such as an EAC Ambassador for all foreign missions like the EU Ambassador.
“They also wanted a common currency to facilitate trade and deepen integration; clear levels of decision making for Federation and national governments.”
Compared to the EAC, the EU adopted a common external border control policy and within the Schengen Area, passport controls have been abolished allowing free movement across borders for all EU nationals and foreigners possessing a Schengen Visa.
On the contrary, the EAC has attempted to follow a chronological order of growth from one stage to another under the four pillars; the Customs union, Common market, the monetary union and the political federation since it was re-established in 1999.
The EAC is still aspiring to achieve a monetary Union whose dateline has been pushed from the 2024 to 2031.
Attempts to fast track to a political federation have not materialized because of a number of mitigating factors including a slow pace of integration, poor funding, competing political interests and perceived leadership ambitions.
“Political federation requires an organization where there will be a centre of authority independent institutions to strengthen direction of control at the top. Basically, that is what we are looking at but not in the form in which we weren't selected to be,” said Justice Odoki.
After Kenya, Tanzania is the next destination for the committee of experts followed by Rwanda.