President Yoweri Museveni, the new chairman of the East African Community has objected to European Union sanctions on Burundi and threats to the economic prosperity of Kenya.
Museveni was speaking at the 18th Ordinary Summit of EAC Heads of State held in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania on Saturday.
The Summit tasked him to lead a delegation to Brussels to discuss EPA [Economic Partnership Agreement] with the EU and the matter of sanctions over Burundi.
“We don’t agree with the EU placing unilateral sanctions on Burundi,” Museveni told the summit.
“It’s part of why we have not signed the EPA. Burundi is our member and no action should be taken against it without our input. Our house is our house.”
On 29 September 2016, the Council renewed the EU restrictive measures against Burundi until 31 October 2017.
These measures consist of a travel ban and asset freeze against four persons whose activities were deemed to be undermining democracy or obstructing the search for a political solution to the crisis in Burundi.
These activities include acts of violence, repression or incitement to violence, and acts which constitute serious human rights violations.
The EU had repeatedly and continuously called on all parties to refrain from, and to condemn, any acts of violence.
It said this was essential if the conditions for progress in the search for a political solution to the crisis are to be put in place and maintained.
The Council considered that the absence of progress in the situation regarding the four persons under restrictive measures justified the prolongation of the sanctions.
On Saturday, Museveni and Tanzania’s John Magufuli called the EU to lift sanctions on Burundi, but a diplomatic for the European bloc dismissed the appeal.
“This is our problem. We don’t want the European Union to take measures against a member state without discussions with us,” said Museveni, who is EAC president and lead mediator in Burundi’s seemingly intractable two-year-old political crisis.
Tanzania’s president said Europe should be focused on its own issues.
“They are taking sanctions against Burundi when they too are facing difficulties at home, like the Brexit,” Magufuli said.
But EU ambassador to Tanzania and the EAC, Roeland van de Geer, told AFP that “sanctions remain as long as the situation does not change”.
Museveni also spoke on EU’s threats to the economic prosperity of the neighbouring Kenya.
“Even before I lead that delegation, I must say we object to threats to harm Kenya by the EU,” Museveni said.
He added: “We are harmonising our stand on this matter and we ask that EU exercises patience.”
Last year, Kenya secured safeguards to protect its primary industries from the European Union after it ratified a trade deal with Brussels allowing continued unrestricted access of its exports to the bloc.
The deal signed by Kenya offers insights to other East Africa Community members, notably Tanzania and Burundi, which have hesitated to sign the EPA for fear that it will derail their industrialisation plans.
The EPA Kenya ratified protects sensitive products such as dairy products, fruits and vegetables, fish, textiles and clothing, footwear, and vehicles from competition from European exporters for 15 years.
Other products excluded from liberalisation include chemicals, plastics, wood-based paper, ceramic products, glassware, articles of base metal, and wines and spirits.
The EPA will see Kenya allow EU imports to compete across 80 per cent of its tariffs, going by value.
Kenya even legalised the trade pact it signed with the EU on September 1 as it sought to protect its exports to the EU market from taxes and quota restrictions.
The EU had given Kenya four months from October 2 until February 2, 2017 for its lawmakers to approve the agreement as a demonstration of the country’s commitment to the trade deal.
Rwanda also signed the agreement but it is yet to ratify it while Uganda has expressed a commitment to sign.