The viability of the East African Community has been put to question by MPs, many of whom said Uganda is getting the short end of the stick in the integration process.
From the unending wrangling with neighbour Rwanda, to now the subtle rivalry between Uganda and Kenya, MPs say partner states must either reciprocate or Uganda rethinks the whole integration affair.
The Minister of State for East African Affairs, Hon Julius Maganda, in a statement on celebrations to mark 20 years of the East African Community (EAC), sparked the controversy.
“The East African Community has implemented the Customs Union at 95 per cent, Monetary Union is 90 per cent; two Bills have already been passed by Eala and assented to, by 2024 we shall have the Central Bank of East Africa,” he said.
“The political integration is now becoming a reality; a team of experts has been appointed to come up with the political federation,” he added.
But MPs were not amused.
“The Minister in his statement says there will be political federation by 2024. Can the Minister clarify to Parliament how that will be achieved when the border with Uganda is now closed,” said MP Ibrahim Ssemujju (FDC, Kira Municipality), the Chief Opposition Whip.
He was reinforced by MP Theodore Ssekikubo (NRM, Lwemiyaga), who condemned Rwanda for shooting Ugandans Kigali accused of smuggling goods into their side of the border.
Ssekikubo said the statement should have included the state of relations with Rwanda, and added that short of that, the Minister’s effort “is a hollow statement that does not merit the attention of the House.”
Recent aggressive behaviour by Rwanda, especially at the now closed Katuna/Gatuna border point, has rattled government.
In a statement, the Executive Director of the Uganda Media Centre, Mr Ofwono Opondo, condemned Rwanda for the killings.
Addressing a news conference at the Rwandan High Commission in Kampala, a defiant Ambassador Frank Mugambage said Kigali declines to receive a diplomatic protest note from Kampala, blaming Uganda for sharing it first with the media.
MP Jacquiline Amongin termed the EAC a club of the elite, which makes no meaning on ground, a claim that matched with the views of MP Kassiano Wadri (IND, Arua Municipality) on the Community, who derogated it as a meaningless meet, wine and dine affair where Uganda is shortchanged.
Speaker Rebecca Kadaga, on hearing claims that Ugandan properties are to be taken over by the Kenyan government, instructed the Finance Ministry to forestall such possibility.
“I want to direct that within a fortnight, you give us direction on the properties of government in Mombasa,” said Kadaga.
Prime Minister Rugunda exuded confidence on the viability of the EAC.
“EAC has come to deepen integration…this is a process that is unstoppable. There might be some irritants here and there but it is our duty to resolve them,” he said.
Speaker Kadaga designated Tuesday next week as the date for substantive disposal of the matter.