The East African Community will give its final position on the EU-EAC Economic Partnership Agreement in three months’ time, the heads of state of the bloc have resolved.
The resolution was among the several adopted by the heads of state attending the 17th Extra-Ordinary summit in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania. There had been expectation that the heads of state would sign the EPA at the Tanzania summit. President Yoweri Museveni was present at the summit.
In a join communiqué issued at the closure of the summit at State House in Dar-es-Salaam and read by the EAC Secretary General, Dr Liberat Mfumukeko, the summit requested for more time from the European Union to allow them study the agreements.
Host President John Magufuli, who spelt out some of the key issues that the region is still reviewing, also asked the EU not to impose any form of penalty on Kenya which had committed to sign the agreement with the European Union by October.
President Museveni also made a similar call, saying Kenya which will now have to wait for the region’s position in January 2017, should not be punished.
“Our EU partners, don’t panic. Don’t stampede. Give us three months. Don’t punish Kenya. In January, we shall give you a collective answer,” said President Museveni.
On the EPA, President Magufuli said the East African Community member states were asking for more time to discuss new challenges that have emerged such as the EU imposing sanctions on Burundi without consulting EAC, the exit of Britain from the European Union and the possibility of a member state getting out of the partnership in case it is found to be non-beneficial in future.
Rwanda President Paul Kagame was present. Kenya was represented by Deputy President William Ruto, while South Sudan President Salva Kiir was represented by Envoy Aggrey Tisa Sabuni. External Relations Minister Alain Nyamitwe represented Burundian President Pierre Nkurunzinza.
The summit also appointed a new Deputy Secretary General of the East African Community, Rwanda’s Christophe Bazivamo.
The Regional summit also received and discussed a report from the facilitator of the inter Burundi peace negotiations the former Tanzanian leader Benjamin Mkapa on the progress of the peace process in Burundi.
The summit expressed optimism on the progress made and upheld the excellent work done by the facilitator President Mkapa and the chief negotiator President Museveni.
The summit tasked the East African council of Minister to draw a budget needed to facilitate the inter-Burundi peace negotiation team and appealed to international community to support the community with the necessary resources to facilitate the peace process.
The Summit further discussed the security situation in Southern Sudan a new member of the East African community and pledged to support the efforts of the Inter-Governmental Authority on Development (IGAD) in resolving the conflict in Southern Sudan and appealed to the government, people of Southern Sudan and all factions to embrace these efforts for the good of the people of South Sudan and for the good of the region.
President John Pombe Magufuli of Tanzania who is also the Chairman of the East African Community congratulated the republic of Sudan upon joining the community. He however expressed sadness that fresh fighting had erupted in the youngest country and appealed to all Southern Sudanese to work in the interest of their county and bring about peace and stability there.