Kenyan President William Ruto wants the East African Community (EAC) treaty amended to reflect the bloc’s current status, including membership.
During a meeting with the Speaker of the East African Legislative Assembly (EALA), Mr Joseph Nkakirutimana, Ruto stated that using a formative law created in 1999 to manage an expanded membership was inappropriate.
He claims that the bloc must adapt to the needs of new members, including language requirements, as well as be open to admitting new members without the restrictions that existed more than 24 years ago.
When it was formed in 1999, the EAC was resurrecting the defunct bloc of 1977, which included Kenya, Uganda, and Tanzania. It was later expanded to include Rwanda, Burundi, and South Sudan in 2007 before the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) joined last year. Somalia’s eligibility is currently being determined.
“Somalia is likely to join after an assessment is completed. Ethiopia and Sudan could also join the EAC, the president said at the state house in Nairobi.
President Ruto also stated that the bloc must adapt by allowing members to access community benefits.
“It is time to revisit the treaty, particularly with regard to the languages used at EALA. Of course, Kiswahili will continue to play a significant role in the assembly,” Ruto stated.
According to the bloc’s formative law, new members should be admitted based on geographic proximity to an existing member, including constant interactions. It also states that new members must adhere to common values such as stability, democracy, and good governance, as well as pay regular mandatory fees to the bloc.
And, until 2021, the official language was English, despite the fact that some members’ official languages were French. The French language was formally endorsed as an official lingua franca at an EAC Heads of State Summit in 2021, but this has not been amended in the treaty.
President William Ruto, on the other hand, praised the EAC’s progress since its inception.
According to a state house dispatch, the EALA speaker had requested a review of the treaty. The EALA desires financial autonomy for the legislative organ. Although the majority of its employees are temporary, some have reportedly worked at the EAC for more than two decades.
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, joined Ruto in meeting the EALA speaker. Participation of the general public
The speaker had previously met with Kenya’s Senate Speaker Moses Wetangula, who suggested that the EALA’s MPs be directly elected by the 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. However, within fifteen years, the EU shifted to universal suffrage for member elections.
“That is the only way we can get the general public to know about and understand EALA,” Wetangula explained.