Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni has insisted the East African Community (EAC) Heads of State Summit must take place on November 30, 2018 as planned despite protests from his Burundian counterpart, Pierre Nkurunziza.
Confidential correspondences obtained by ChimpReports show Nkurunziza had argued that Burundi received a late communication about the Summit hence requesting its postponement.
Nkurunziza, in a letter dated November 22, told Museveni, who is EAC chairman, that the communication about the Summit “though signed on Oct.30, reached Burundi Embassy in Uganda on November 19 by note verbale no. PRO/380/04 from Ministry of Foreign Affairs and my (Nkurunziza) office on November 21.”
The Burundian leader said “this gave us a more or less a week to be ready” for the Summit due this Friday in Arusha, Tanzania.
Nkurunziza, who has never traveled out Burundi since the failed coup in 2015, further stated his government “consider the period to be at very short notice for thorough preparations for a summit, which in terms of communication of notice require 4 weeks…”
Nkurunziza even sent his foreign minister Ezechiel Nibigira to Uganda to meet Museveni on the matter.
The Minister was accompanied by Burundi’s Ambassador to Uganda, Mr. Jean Bosco Barege, the Secretary General of the ruling Party, Mr Evariste Ndayishimiye and Mr Emmanuel Manirakira.
Museveni speaks out
But President Museveni has rejected Nkurunziza’s request, saying the Burundian leader “may be right on procedural matters” but that “I do not agree to postponement of the Summit.”
Museveni said “as a chair of EAC i get updated.”
In his letter dated November 25, which ChimpReports has seen, Museveni said Burundi “has been aware of the agenda” of the meeting and the items on the agenda “have been discussed in various sectoral council meetings which Burundi attended.”
Museveni further told Nkurunziza that the EAC Council of ministers approved a calendar of activities for the period ofJune – December 2018 showing the summit would be held on Nov.30.
“This was communicated to all heads of the partner states,” Museveni reminded Nkurunziza.
Museveni, who is famous for writing long letters, told Nkurunziza that Permanent Secretaries of EAC considered a status report of EAC resource mobilization and implementation of donor-funded projects during a meeting held at the secretariat in Arusha from Oct.24-25.
Museveni emphasized that “Burundi was in attendance.”
Additionally, Museveni said EAC Secretary General Liberat Mfumukeko shared a copy of the summit agenda for the council’s approval “which was done with support of Burundi delegation.”
Museveni also cited a letter from Burundi foreign minister referenced 1701/2682/CM/2018 to Mfumukeko and copied to partner states “requesting addition” of an item on the agenda of the summit.
“This is a clear indication that Burundi was aware of the summit,” said Museveni.
Noticeably, Museveni emphasized that the summit intends to “deliberate on serious agenda items which have been pending for so long” and needed to be “attended to promptly.”
He added: “Let us not be held hostage of the rules of procedure.”
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 roadmap 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.
It appears Museveni is determined to hold the meeting with or without Nkurunziza.
The Burundian leader seems uncomfortable traveling out his country without adequate preparations.
Nkurunziza survived a coup while attending a similar EAC meeting in Tanzania.
He accused Rwanda of harboring dissidents planning to take over government in Bujumbura, accusations President Kagame denied.
Instead,Kagame’s government accused Burundi of training Rwandan militants to destabilize his country.
And more interestingly, Rwanda is expected to take over the rotational chairmanship of EAC.
This means the Rwandan Foreign Minister Dr Richard Sezibera will serve as leader of the Council of Ministers.
Apart from the procedural concerns, officials say Burundi appears uncomfortable with Rwanda taking over chairmanship of the EAC.
There is no indication the Summit will be adjourned.
Already, 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 prioritising 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.
The forthcoming 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 at its 19th Ordinary Meeting held in Kampala, decided that there will only be two Deputy Secretaries General at the EAC who shall be recruited competitively on a rotational basis.
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 Inter-Burundi Dialogue, 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 this Friday.