President Yoweri Museveni has taken a swipe at the East African Legislative Assembly MPs over struggle for positions, saying integration should benefit only the people.
Museveni, who today officially opened the 2nd Meeting of the 1st Session of the 4th Assembly at Parliament of Uganda, said the economic dividends that come with regional integration should not be sacrificed at the altar of positions.
“This integration is about the future of our people. It is not about positions and when I hear you quarrel about positions, I feel so sorry,” said Museveni.
The idea of the East African Community integration, said Museveni, “is not about you [EALA MPs] but the ones you represent.”
The delayed opening of the session, occasioned by sustained chaotic elections in most member states, derailed the Assembly’s business.
Matters escalated after Tanzania fielded a candidate for Speaker against Rwanda, who the rotational policy favored.
Museveni said integration, under the EAC, will strengthen the block’s bargaining power as the entity negotiates the Economic Partnership Agreements with the European Union and secure the Community’s future.
“If we don’t build our own [negotiation] power, we shall lose out as it happened in the past. These people we are negotiating with are big countries,” said Museveni.
The region’s economic progress, said Museveni, is tied to the size of the market.
Museveni, who promised he would always be available to address the Assembly on integration and its benefits, said integration also helped give countries the ability to manage common natural resources to benefit their communities.
EALA Speaker Martin Ngoga hailed the President for his interest in matters of regional integration, and pledged the Assembly’s commitment to the actualization of the political federation.
With South Sudan now on board, the region is struggling with growing escalation of conflict in troubled areas like Burundi, South Sudan and spillovers from an onslaught against the Allied Democratic Forces (ADF) rebels in the eastern Democratic Republic of Congo.
The region has now undertaken an ambitious multi-billion US dollars Standard Gauge Railway project, which will cost Uganda a total of $8 billion.
Museveni said the Community’s troubled political past would have been much better with integration.
“If we had the integration, we would not have had the problem of Idi Amin. The genocide in Rwanda could never have happened. The EAC would never have allowed the genocide,” said Museveni.
The Speaker of Parliament of Uganda, Rebecca Kadaga, commended the President for his contributions towards growing the EAC from the original three countries – Kenya, Tanzania and Uganda, to six to include Rwanda, Burundi and South Sudan.
She appealed to EALA members to come up with programmes intended to alleviate the adverse effects of climate change that has led to crop failure, death of herds leaving communities struggling to find food.
The President, together with Speaker Rebecca Kadaga, toured departmental stalls erected as part of the ongoing Parliament Week.
The 2nd Meeting of the 1st Session of the 4th Assembly will run until 8th February 2018.