4th September 2016
The East African Civil Society Organization’s Forum (EACSOF) Secretariat led by the Secretary General on 30th August 2016 met the General Purpose Committee of the East African Legislative Assembly (EALA). The EALA legislators most of whom before the meeting did not know much about EACSOF appreciated the gesture, saying that the meeting made them to understand more the about aims of EACSOF and the strategic positioning of EACSOF in ensuring a people centered EAC regional cooperation and Integration process. Among the key agreement was that fact that there is need for legislation which will allow for the creation of an enabling environment for CSOs in the EAC Region and also for the speedy implementation of the Common Market Protocol at partner state levels so that the benefit to the citizens which are envisaged by the Protocol are actualized. In this regard the two sides agreed to collaborate in putting in place and legislating on a model law for CSOs in the EAC and another law for the speedy implementation of the Common Market Protocol to implement this agreement EALA legislators urged EACSOF propose Bills on the two issues. The meeting also noted that legislation of law on an enabling environment for CSOs will be met by challenges because constitutions of some countries in the EAC Region do not provide for freedom of association and expression of the citizenry and civil society, therefore the meeting called upon EALA legislators to play an extra role of canvassing political support to the EACSOF and EALA proposed Bills in their respective countries. Other areas of collaboration agreed upon by the meeting were in terms of the CSOs disseminating various EALA Bills and soliciting public views which will supplement the public hearings which the EALA legislators said did not cover the needed number of citizens due limited funding. EASCOF particularly urged EALA to exercise greater oversight on partner states so that they can actu- alize the common market which promises the EAC citizens a number of rights and freedoms, but the freedoms and rights are slow to come due to the varied implementation status and attitudes by different partner states.
EASCOF particularly urged EALA to exercise greater oversight on partner states so that they can actualize the common market which promises the EAC citizens a number of rights and freedoms, but the freedoms and rights are slow to come due to the varied implementation status and attitudes by different partner states. The meeting culminated into an agreement that immediate efforts are needed to set in motion the collaboration and work on the preliminary action which are needed before entering into a memorandum of understanding (MOU), this includes having an all inclusive meeting with various CSOs actors and representation of all the Committees of EALA so as to have in-depth deliberations. In the mean time EALA welcomed EACSOF to liaise with it on all matters which EACSOF thinks are beneficial and that EALA will provide information regarding various engagements of the Assembly to EACSOF so as to get broad EAC citizenry understanding and feedback. The envisaged collaboration is rooted in the directive of 19th meeting of the Council of Ministers to the EAC secretariat in which it wanted the formalization of the forum provided for under Article127 (4) of the Treaty. Article 127(4) urges for the formation of the Consultative Dialogue Framework (CDF). The CDF is a structured guide which is aimed at ensuring consultative participation and inclusiveness of Civil Society, Private Sector and other interest groups towards realizing the Community’s objectives and promoting a people centered integration process. EACSOF as the apex body for CSOs in the EAC Region was automatically charged with the role of representing CSOs in the CDF. The CDF is a framework which starts at the partner state level, where CSOs, PSOs, Government and other interest Groups deliberate issues of interest to the EAC and formulate a national position (national dialogue committee). The issues are then taken to the regional level where representatives of CSOs, Partners states, PSOs, other interest groups and operatives of the EAC who represent the Secretary General deliberate the issues (regional dialogue committee). The CDF process culminates in annual forum termed the “EAC Annual Secretary General’s Forum”. The EAC SG Forum is officiated by the EAC SG who gets first hand information from the CSOs and PSOs and is expected to channel the suggestions and demands through the structures of the EAC for action. While the CDF provides a formal framework for CSO engagement with the EAC it is only at the SG Forum that CSOs have a chance of interacting with members of the East African Legislative Assembly (EALA) and experience has proven the time accorded to this interaction and the number of EALA members invited does not suffice for the two parties to have in-depth deliberations on how CSOs and EALA can collaborate. However EACSOF being cognizant that the EALA Rules of Procedure call for involvement and input from the citizens has taken advantage of this advantage and reached out EALA and proposed a collaboration framework as one avenue to increase involvement and inputs from the citizens of EAC to EALA processes. The EACSOF proposed structure is premised on the following elements:
- The need to contribute to the realization of EALA’s vision of an efficient, effective and peo- ple centered regional legislature.
- The need to uphold the principle of a people-centered integration process as enshrined in the EAC Treaty.
- EALA is the legislative assembly and its linkages with civil society are necessary as they significantly strengthen popular participation to ensure that legislation is responsive to people’s needs.