Trade barriers worry EA council

The Board of Directors for the East African Business Council (EABC), which is based at Njiro in the municipality of Arusha, has paid a special visit to the Kenyan Head of State in Nairobi for discussions on the issue of non-tariff barriers and other matters.

The question of non-tariff barriers has, invariably, been causing an outcry from the regional business communities. The meeting took place in Nairobi. The delegation, according to the EABC Acting Membership Services and Communications Manager, Ms Lilian Awinja, met President Kibaki at the Harambee House in the Kenyan capital and held talks with the head of state regarding the way forward in doing business in East Africa.

Areas that the EABC heads want addressed by President Kibaki during his remaining tenure at State House include the implementation of agreed policies, institutionalized framework for engagement with the Private Sector and other Non-State Actors and the road map to a fully-fledged Customs Union as well as One Customs Territory.

President Kibaki has all along been at the forefront in solving the nagging issue of non-tariff barriers which tops the list of stumbling blocks that affect cross-border trade and business in Tanzania, Kenya, Uganda, Rwanda and Burundi, the five partner states that make up the East African Community (EAC).

In addition to addressing the issue of non-tariff barriers, the meeting also discussed the implementation of the EAC Common Market Protocol and development of infrastructures (roads, railways and ports) and customs. Meanwhile, the EAC Forum of Human Rights Commissions, which brings together all the commissions of the five Partner States, is meeting in Nairobi to examine the progress the region is making in this area.

"Protection and promotion of human rights is key for social, political and economic development of the East African region," EAC Deputy Secretary General Beatrice Kiraso said when opening the two-day meeting on Friday. "Successful integration will be achieved if East Africans feel their rights are protected and not infringed upon," she added. Promotion and protection of  people's rights is one of the fundamental principles of the EAC Treaty and is a key component of the EAC programme on good governance.

The meeting acknowledged the progress made in addressing human rights issues in the region, but also recognized that much more must be done to improve the patchy human rights record in most of the EAC countries. Ms Kiraso called for continuous evaluation of the situation with a view to narrowing the gaps and devising new strategies to tackle the deficits that presently pertain in the region.

She urged national human rights institutions to keep alive the debate on extended jurisdiction of the East African Court of Justice (EACJ) to handle human rights issues, as part of strengthening institutions which will support the process towards political federation of East Africa. The delegates expressed concern over lack of a regional mechanism to coordinate issues of protection of human rights. She noted that sometimes duplication of efforts by different players did not yield the required results.

Ms Kiraso congratulated the Republic of Burundi for establishing an Independent Human Rights Commission in July 2011. She said this was a milestone that reflects the importance of institution building as a way of harmonizing our approach to governance issues.
The Human Rights Commission of Burundi on its part applauded the EAC Forum of Human Rights Commissions as well as the Secretariat for the important and supportive role they played.

The meeting, among others, will consider the implementation status of the EAC plan of action on promotion and protection of human rights and review the Partner States policies and action plans.


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Author: MARC NKWAME in Arusha

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