- Rwanda and Burundi have started enjoying the benefits of maintaining peace and stability, thus being accepted as members of the East Africa Community (EAC) after having waited for ten years. The EAC is currently moving towards a political and economic union.
The inclusion of Rwanda and Burundi was endorsed at the heads of state summit of the EAC, chaired by the Kenyan President, Mwai Kibabi on Wednesday. Originally, the block consist of Uganda, Kenya and Tanzania but the new development increased the EAC population to over 120 million people.
If Rwanda and Burundi had not maintained peace and stability, EAC would have automatically turned down their application to join the region bloc. The two countries will be the first French speaking EAC members, now making the block bilingual.
Tanzanian President Jakaya Kikwete unveiled the news to members during a plenary session at the summit, which was also attended by the Presidents of Rwanda, Burundi, Uganda and the autonomous Tanzanian island of Zanzibar.
In his statement, the Tanzanian President said EAC had corrected a mistake because the two countries had always been part and parcel of East Africa. Indeed, historically, the Rwanda and Burundi kingdoms directed their trade and diplomacy towards the Swahili coast and Buganda, and the two kingdoms were part of the German East Africa colony, which also encompassed Tanzania.
For President Yoweri Museveni of Uganda, the large size of the regional body matters a lot, which according to him, will make its market attractive to the world, citing China as an example. A functional common market is currently emerging in the EAC.
In welcoming the new members, President Kibaki asked them to move rapidly to get themselves integrated in the EAC and that they should negotiate and sign the necessary treaties by July 2007.
Rwanda's President Paul Kagame, who was engulfed with joy, tagged the pioneers of the bloc on their back and expressed his country's readiness to participate in the development of the regional economic and political body.
In a coordinated move, the African Development Bank (ADB) has granted US$ 5.5 million to EAC to support the feasibility and design study of the Arusha-Holili-Taveta-Voi Road and investment preparations for the Tanga-horohoro-Malinda road and civil engineering capacity building of the body.
There is also progress being made to move the body's secretariat of the Lake Victoria basin commission to Kenya.
On 13 October, the three original members of East African Community - Kenya, Tanzania and Uganda - launched national consultative processes on fast-tracking the East African Political Federation in their respective countries.
The campaign, which took place simultaneously in the three member countries, was meant to make an informed choice on the political federation of the bloc. Dubbed as the turning point in the region's move to establish political federation, the process lasts for six months.
"The process marked the beginning of a process to wipe out colonial and imperial legacy," EAC Secretary General Juma Mwapachu said shortly before the consultation started.
However, the Kenyan President said by nature, federation is a complex matter that involves important issues of sovereignty, which is why it is important for the subject to be adequately discussed and appreciated by a broad spectrum of people of East Africa.
He said he believed that the sovereignty of individual states is derived from the will and self-determination of the people. "It is indeed expected that the process we are launching today will be wide and comprehensive enough so that the people fully understand the benefits and challenges of a political federation," he said.
Mr Kibaki said the EAC secretariat would provide a common framework and methodology that was to provide guidelines to ensure that all the people of the region deliver their verdict on the basis of a common set of issues and questions.
He said East Africans would better realise and sustain their development goals easily if they came together, especially at a time when the challenges of globalisation called for greater cooperation between countries. He added that the formation of regional economic and political blocs was "imperative for our social and economic development."
The three countries' failed in their attempts to federate in 1977 when their presidents walked out of the regional bloc because of their "irreconcilable ideological inclinations," as Tanzania was a socialist state while Uganda and Kenya were capitalist, both with sound economic bases.
If the process has been given public blessing, EAC will become a common market in 2008, introduce a common currency and become a federation in 2010.
The presidency of the federation would rotate within the member nations. But the longest serving president would be first given the mantle to lead. President Yoweri Museveni of Uganda, who is the longest serving president of EAC, is accused of launching a campaign to become the first regional president.
After the rotation of presidency in the three - or five - countries, first democratic elections would be held in 2013 to choose a common President.
afrol News - It is called "financial inclusion", and it is a key government policy in Rwanda. The goal is that, by 2020, 90 percent of the population is to have and actively use bank accounts. And in only four years, financial inclusion has doubled in Rwanda.
afrol News - The UN's humanitarian agencies now warn about a devastating famine in Sudan and especially in South Sudan, where the situation is said to be "imploding". Relief officials are appealing to donors to urgently fund life-saving activities in the two countries.
afrol News - Fear is spreading all over West Africa after the health ministry in Guinea confirmed the first Ebola outbreak in this part of Africa. According to official numbers, at least 86 are infected and 59 are dead as a result of this very contagious disease.
afrol News - It is already a crime being homosexual in Ethiopia, but parliament is now making sure the anti-gay laws will be applied in practical life. No pardoning of gays will be allowed in future, but activist fear this only is a signal of further repression being prepared.
afrol News / Africa Renewal - Ethiopia's ambitious plan to build a US$ 4.2 billion dam in the Benishangul-Gumuz region, 40 km from its border with Sudan, is expected to provide 6,000 megawatts of electricity, enough for its population plus some excess it can sell to neighbouring countries.