OPINION: Maintenance of Peace and Security is the Lifeline of the East African Community

Michael Katungi Mpeirwe

By: Michael Katungi Mpeirwe

Since the rejuvenation of the East African Community (EAC) in 1999, recipe various reforms have been effected and various protocols signed to make the dream of an integrated EAC a reality.

The Customs Union (2005), medical The Common Market Protocol (2010), visit this site The Monetary Union Protocol (2013) are all in place as the region now looks towards political federation. These protocols give the people of the EAC member countries a good chance at reaping the fruits of various technical and diplomatic processes.

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The Common Market Protocol gives wananchi a good chance at being East African. In it is enshrined the free movement of free movement of persons, labor, services, right of establishment and right of residence. Implementation, challenges notwithstanding, is proceeding.

Alongside all this however, are legitimate concerns about national defence and security. The rise of urban insecurity, global terrorism, armed insurgency, cyber insecurity, border disputes, human trafficking, money laundering, and maritime insecurity among others would make a “sovereign” state wish to ignore the same provisions of the Common Market Protocol in the hope of protecting its people.

The rise of insecurity is dangerous to economic progress. While addressing Parliament of Uganda in 2015, President Yoweri Museveni remarked, “If you think national security is not important, you go and grow coffee in Somalia.”

People can only produce, add value, and market their goods in a safe, secure and peaceful environment. Even service providers cannot work from restive zones; besides the fear of death and destruction, restive areas do not produce wealth and thus have no money to access even the most basic of services on their own if not aid.

Trade is also hurt. For instance from 2011 to 2013 after former Southern Sudan became the Republic of South Sudan, the trade between Uganda and the new state was 3 trillion Ugandan shillings annually.

But since the outbreak of war in 2013, this trade has plummeted to only about 260bn Uganda shillings annually. This is a big upset in the progress of the African people. Every time there is insecurity anywhere, production and trade bear the brunt.

The fear of insecurity should however not be the reason member states shirk integration. Ultra-nationalism, conservatism and bigotry cannot be a panacea for the modern day challenges of Africa.

It is only a united approach that shall redeem us. The examples of the good work done in South Sudan by the UPDF and the AMISOM force in Somalia are worthy. More cooperation on security challenges is what will make the East African Community blossom.

The African state as it is still very weak and its voice on the global political, military and trade platforms is still faint. The only way we can build capacity is to ally on those various fronts to speak in one voice on international political platforms and negotiate trade agreements.

East Africa as one market now is 150 million people. However, standing in their disparate positions as member states, no single one can make even 50 million people, and we have very small GDPs. In a situation like this, the state is weak and can be undermined and dismissed in global discourse.

To effectively gain the ground we need in global discourse, we need to unite; and therefore any stumbling blocks on our way to unity must be dealt with decisively. We need to put more effort in the security of our people for them to produce and trade.

Member states must ensure the free movement of goods, services, labor and capital for us to realize our development agenda and liberation of the African. To achieve this is to deliberately make hard decisions to boost the people’s security and defense.

This involves developing East Africa as a single defence and security territory. While Kenya, Rwanda and Uganda agreed a Peace and Security Pact pursuant to the principle of variable geometry, it is still not good enough. The entire region must be persuaded to move decisively in that direction. A protocol to this end must be urgently concluded, signed and ratified.

Michael Katungi works with African Union and is vying for membership of the East African Legislative Assembly 2017-2022.


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