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The East African : Feb 14th 2015
6 MOBILISING FUNDING Infrastructure projects to top agenda at EAC leaders’ summit P≥esidents will meet in Nai≥obi this week to endo≥se joint co≥≥ido≥ p≥oject By CHRISTABEL LIGAMI Special Correspondent F inancing for infrastructure projects will be high on the agenda at the EAC Heads of State Summit in Nairobi this week, during which Kenya’s President Uhuru Kenyatta is scheduled to hand over the chair to Tanzania’s President Jakaya Kikwete. The presidents of the five member states are expected to adopt alternative means to raise $100 million for the Central (Tanzania and Burundi) and Northern (Kenya, Uganda, South Sudan and Rwanda) Corridors. They are also set to endorse the The EastAfrican NEWS FEBRUARY 14-20,2015 Q &A WI T H U H U R U K E N YAT TA Despite challenges, EAC integ≥ation has been st≥engthened History will judge us kindly, Kenya’s president said in response to questions from our special correspondent You have been the chairman of EAC and Igad at the same time. What were your challenges? How do you rate your performance in both positions? It was an honour and a privilege to be chosen by my peers to lead both organisations. The challenges inter- Tanzania President Jakaya Kikwete talks to Kenya President Uhuru Kenyatta. President Kikwete will take over as chair of the EAC from President Uhuru this week. Picture: File integration of the two parallel projects into one Community initiative, giving the strongest indication of their desire to bridge the rift that was threatening to break up the regional bloc. “The Northern Corridor infrastructure projects will run as they are but under the larger EAC infrastructure programme. The same will apply to the Central Corridor projects,” said Kenya’s Foreign Affairs Minister Amina Mohamed in a statement. “We have done great things together before.” Kenya’s President Uhuru Kenyatta “The ultimate objective ISO 9001:2008 CERTIFIED of both projects is minimising delays in the movement of goods and people across the region, which is the main agenda for the EAC integration,” she added. The responsibility of steer- ing the EAC through this phase rests on President Kikwete, who is serving the last few months as head of state as Tanzania prepares to hold its general election in October. President Kenyatta held the chairmanship for slightly longer than the stipulated one year, after the Summit was postponed at the eleventh hour in November when President Kikwete was taken ill. However, the EAC leaders, through the third EAC Infrastructure Summit in Nairobi, which was attended by their representatives, directed their finance ministers to find ways of mobilising funding for the infrastructure projects, and then submit their proposal for adoption. The focus of the projects is construction of roads, railways, an oil pipeline, harmonisation of axle load controls and service automation at border points. Kenya, Uganda, Rwanda and South Sudan are firming up their plans for the construction of both crude oil and petroleum products pipelines. The first will link the oil production zones of Uganda, TURN TO PAGE 10 locked. For example, during my tenure at Igad, we had some difficulties with conflict, which look as though they’re coming to an end. But conflict, of course, means that the East African community’s ambitious plans for regional integration are set back. There were several similar interwoven challenges, where a problem in one place had consequences for our plans elsewhere. Let me say that I look back on my time as EAC chair with fond memories. We have made a start on some vital infrastructural matters, and we have strengthened and deepened our integration. It is still too early to judge the full effect of these efforts, but I am confident that when the history of the period is written, it will show that progress was made. What is the progress on the “Coalition of the Willing” projects? There are funding hiccups for some, especially in Uganda and Rwanda. How is this being addressed? Do you feel that the initiative split EAC? In my view, it is mislead- ing to speak of a Coalition of the Willing. We are one, united Community. We may have different priorities, but all of us are fully committed to the great goal of integration. In fact, that is why I do not feel that the initiative split the EAC. Just as any group of people will have some who have different ways of doing things, so too any group of countries will include members who have different approaches. Our strength remains the amiable manner in which we solve any dificulties, and that strength is the direct consequence of the trust the countries of the region have for each other, and the value they place on unity. EAC issues have captured the public’s attention during your tenure as the chairman. It looks like you had thought about it well before you took the seat? Does the vibrancy we see now stem out of your personality or the agenda being pursued? What more can be done to create awareness on integration and its benefits? Yes. I had given the EAC some thought before I took up the job. I also drew on our long history of co-operation, and I was equally impressed by the successes of regional blocs in other parts of the continent and the world. I was also fortunate to work behind the scenes with other East Africans during my time in Kenya’s Finance ministry. These experiences strengthened my conviction that the time for greater emphasis on unity had come. There is still room for more vigorous advocacy of the benefits, and indeed the necessity, of integration. But I think the best kind of integration will occur naturally: It will happen when East Africans meet each other, trade with each other, and live together. That is why I have so ar- dently defended freedom of movement across the Community. Opinion is polarised on whether the EAC should evolve into a political federation. What justification do you and other regional leaders have for it? What direction will it take? Is the timeline too ambitious? I do not think the timeline is too ambitious. We have done great things together before. In the past few years, the idea and practice of full integration have gathered momentum. We should not pass up the opportunity. More fundamentally, in a world where distance is shrinking, where markets are larger, and where people are far more mobile, it makes good sense to unite — the better to face, and benefit from, these challenges.
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