The East African Community (EAC) Secretary General, Liberat Mfumukeko, has said the recent adjournment of the regional Heads of State meeting in Arusha, Tanzania should not trigger alarm bells over the future of the Community.
The 21st Ordinary Meeting of the EAC Heads of State Summit initially scheduled for Saturday, November 30, 2019, was postponed to a later date in either January or February next year.
The timing of the postponement raised public suspicion considering the deteriorating relations between Uganda and Rwanda on one side and Rwanda and Burundi on the other.
Both Kampala and Gitega accuse Rwanda of aggressive espionage acts and meddling in their domestic affairs to cause regime change in the respective countries.
On its part, Kigali also accuses Uganda and Burundi of helping rebels to oust the government of President Paul Kagame.
EAC said the Summit was postponed after a request by one of the Members of the Summit, adding that the postponement had nothing to do with a dispute or disagreement among any of the EAC Partner States.
The country which requested for the postponement of the meeting was not revealed.
But the rescheduling sparked a raging debate on social media platforms with many saying the collapse of the EAC was around the corner.
Others suggested that member states whose leaders miss out on functions should be removed from the Community to allow others move faster to attain common goals.
But speaking to ChimpReports in Arusha, Tanzania this past week, Mfumukeko expressed confidence that the EAC remained solid despite these challenges.
“I think people need to understand that all meetings in the East African Community require the presence of all the countries,” he said.
“And also, they are very clear rules as to the profile of people who sit in a Council Meeting, who sit in the Coordination Committee, who sit in the Summit of Heads of State. They are very clear. So every single time we don’t have one country, the meeting doesn’t take place. Now for the summit, the EAC Treaty requires one meeting, per year. So the requirement is at least one summit per year. The convening of these meetings is also well regulated,” Mfumukeko elaborated.
According to Rule 11 of the Rules of Procedure of the Summit of the EAC Heads of State, quorum is made of all partner states representation, which is in consonance with decision making by consensus under article 12 of the treaty.
Simplified, the EAC leaders’ Summit can only take place if all the six member states – Kenya, Rwanda, Burundi, Uganda, Tanzania and South Sudan are present.
Regarding this recent postponement, Mfumukeko said the EAC secretariat set up a tentative date.
“Now this is done at the level of the Secretariat and the Council of Ministers as we establish our calendar of activities for the entire fiscal year. And for this year – between January and June, we had a calendar. Between July and December, we had another calendar. So, we had put a tentative date for the summit at the end of November,” explained Mfumukeko.
“So when time comes to convene the Summit, that is when the Secretary General writes to the Chair of the Summit. We say, well, we have planned for the Summit on this date. We ask the Chair to consult other presidents and see if that is fine,” he added.
The chair, who in this case is President Kagame, then consults fellow leaders to see if the date is convenient for all of them to generate quorum for the Summit.
“You understand that at this stage, there’s no confirmation from the Chair of Summit,” explained Mfumukeko.
“The confirmation comes only after the Chair has spoken to the other presidents. And when they are all okay with that, the Chair gets to us generally through the Chair of Council of Ministers and confirms that it’s okay. So, it is as clear as that. Very simple,” he emphasised.
“In this case, we sent the letter. And we waited for the chair of Summit to confirm. So when we met with him last week, he said, ‘well, this date is not good.’” explained Mfumukeko.
He said this was not the first time a Heads of State Summit was being postponed.
“It has happened over the last four years. The Heads of State can delay a summit because they have other engagements. I remember three years ago we delayed the Summit, because there was an AU meeting almost at the same time. So there was a quick decision whether we should have the meeting or wait for a few months. It’s not unusual.”