Mu­sev­eni role as head of EAC un­der scru­tiny over EPA

The East African - - NEWS -

By JULIUS BARIGABA

UGAN­DAN PRES­I­DENT Yow­eri Mu­sev­eni's ef­fec­tive­ness as the chair­per­son of the East African Com­mu­nity is be­ing ques­tioned, es­pe­cially af­ter Bu­rundi boy­cotted the re­cent Heads of State Sum­mit in Arusha, Tan­za­nia. The bloc has also been un­able to fi­nalise a deal on the Eco­nomic Part­ner­ship Agree­ment with the Eu­ro­pean Union.

The EPA pro­vides ac­cess to the Eu­ro­pean Union mar­ket and is one of the crit­i­cal is­sues await­ing res­o­lu­tion by EAC part­ner states. Uganda, Tan­za­nia and Bu­rundi are yet to sign the agree­ment.

Pres­i­dent Mu­sev­eni was man­dated to fol­low up on the trade agree­ment at the EAC Sum­mit of Fe­bru­ary 23. How­ever, a gov­ern­ment of­fi­cial in Kam­pala said “Noth­ing of note has been achieved since.”

Kenya is keen on fi­nal­is­ing the EPA in or­der for its ex­ports, par­tic­u­larly flow­ers, to con­tinue en­joy­ing duty-free, quota-free ac­cess to the EU mar­ket.

Bu­rundi's Pres­i­dent Pierre Nku­run­z­iza scut­tled the sum­mit when he boy­cotted it ac­cus­ing Rwanda of be­ing be­hind ef­forts to desta­bilise his coun­try. Sour re­la­tions be­tween Bu­jum­bura and Kigali are an­other is­sue that Pres­i­dent Mu­sev­eni has been un­able to ad­dress.

Al­though the bad blood be­tween Bu­jum­bura and Kigali dom­i­nated head­lines, trade ex­perts take is­sue with Pres­i­dent Mu­sev­eni's in­abil­ity to de­liver any­thing sig­nif­i­cant to­wards the re­gion's eco­nomic pri­or­i­ties.

Ne­go­ti­a­tions for the EPA were suc­cess­fully con­cluded on Oc­to­ber 16, 2014 and on Septem­ber 1, 2016, Kenya and Rwanda signed the deal. All EU mem­ber states also signed the deal. How­ever, Bu­rundi, Tan­za­nia and Uganda did not sign the deal, but as least de­vel­oped coun­tries, the three states still en­joy ac­cess to the EU mar­ket un­der “Ev­ery­thing But Arms.”

Tan­za­nia op­posed the EPA and cam­paigned against it, while Bu­rundi faces eco­nomic sanc­tions by the EU.

With cracks ap­pear­ing within the EAC fol­low­ing Bu­rundi's ac­cu­sa­tions of Rwanda, some com­men­ta­tors say it is not far-fetched to think that such dif­fer­ences could see the bloc suf­fer a sec­ond col­lapse. Ex­perts ar­gue that Kenya and Rwanda could go ahead to trade with the EU based on the EPA they signed, while Uganda, Bu­rundi, Tan­za­nia and South Su­dan ex­plore other trade part­ner­ships.

Pic­ture: File

Kenya in par­tic­u­lar needs the EPA fi­nalised in or­der for its ex­ports to en­joy duty waivers.

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