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Exclusive: EAC On The Edge As Burundi Shuns Presidents’ Summit In Arusha

The government of Burundi is likely to miss out on the East African Community (EAC) heads of State meeting in Arusha slated for today Friday.

By Thursday night, Burundian delegates were yet to arrive in the Tanzanian city for today’s high level meeting.

President Pierre Nkurunziza last attended the EAC meeting in 2015.

It was at that time that Nkurunziza faced a coup which his aides said was instigated by Rwanda, a claim Kigali vehemently denies.

Rwandan President Paul Kagame is expected to take over the rotational position of chairman EAC, replacing Ugandan leader, Yoweri Museveni.

But Kagame will not personally attend the EAC function as he is already in Argentina for the G20 Summit.

EAC Secretary General Liberat Mfumukeko was not readily available for comment on whether Burundi would send a representative at the last minute.

He, however, recently said Burundi a few weeks ago wrote to EAC, “saying they cannot attend the Council and Summit at the end of November 30 and requested a postponement of two weeks.”

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ChimpReports understands Uganda, which is chairing the Community, decided to proceed with the Summit.

In a letter to Nkurunziza, Museveni said the Summit was meant to “deliberate on serious agenda items which have been pending for so long” and needed to be “attended to promptly.”

Interestingly, Burundi did not attend the meeting of the ministers earlier this week.

Yet, unanimously the Ministers recognized that their meeting can only be informal because for it to be called “EAC Council meeting” all countries have to be represented in line with Rule 11 from EAC Rules of Procedure for Council.

“The same issue is now coming up today as the same rule applies to Summit; so the situation is quite problematic,” said a Ugandan diplomat.

If Nkurunziza doesn’t send a Minister to represent him, the decisions of the Summit will be null and void.

According to the EAC Treaty, if a member of the summit (president of a partner state), fails to attend the summit, he can appoint a minister to represent him or her.

The minister appointed shall have powers, duties and responsibilities of his or her respective president to discharge duties at the leaders’ club.

Among the items on the Provisional Agenda of the 20th Summit of the EAC Heads of State are: the status of ratification of various protocols; the status of resolution of long outstanding non-tariff barriers, and; the progress report on the adoption of Political Confederation as a Transitional Model to the East African Political Federation.

Other items on the Agenda include: the road-map for the accelerated integration of the Republic of South Sudan into the EAC, and; the verification exercise for the admission of the Republic of Somalia into the Community.

The Summit will also consider reports on modalities for the promotion of Motor Vehicle Assembly in East Africa aimed at reducing importation of used vehicles into the Community, and; the review of the textile and leather sector with a view to developing a strong and competitive domestic sector that gives consumers better choice than imported textile and footwear.

Burundi’s refusal to attend the meeting could undermine its relations with Uganda and particularly Museveni – one of the strong guardians of the country’s stability.

Tanzanian President Pombe Magufuli has already confirmed his attendance.

“Your excellency, considering the importance that we all attach to our community, I am pleased to inform you that I support the convening of the EAC Summit as scheduled. In this respect I confirm my attendance at that important summit of our country,” reads Magufuli’s letter to President Museveni.

At their 19th Ordinary Meeting held in Kampala, Uganda on 23rd February, 2018, the Summit directed the EAC Council of Ministers to explore the possibilities of developing the automotive industry in East Africa by reducing the importation of used vehicles from outside the region and thereby make the region more competitive.

The Summit, at the same meeting in Kampala, directed the Council to make the region more competitive by prioritizing the development of a competitive domestic textile and leather sector that will give East Africans a wider range of choices in terms of affordable, new and quality clothes, shoes and other leather products.

Today’s Summit will also review progress report by the Council of Ministers on the Summit Directive on having two (2) Deputy Secretaries General at the Community recruited competitively on a rotational basis among the Partner States.

The Summit will further consider the implementation status of the EAC Customs Union and Common Market Protocols in addition to the current financial status of the Community.

Receiving a report on the process of the Inter-Burundian Dialogue from former Tanzania President Benjamin Mkapa, who is the Facilitator of the process, Museveni on November 20 said “Burundi should build a new Constitution that can implement security and protection of all the people there so that Burundi nationals return home and be able to live in peace. There should be no gamble in the Burundi political resolution.”

This report will also be tabled before the Summit today.

“The problem is the bad relations between Burundi and Rwanda. Unless they are solved, EAC will not achieve any progress,” said a concerned diplomat who spoke to us on condition of anonymity as he is not authorized to talk to the media.

“Something needs to be done urgently.”

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