EAC Bloc Asked to Review Treaty as COVID-19 Exposes Regional Crisis

The rising tension among member states of the East African Community on the  management of Coronavirus Disease has exposed the need to rethink what brings countries in the region together, according to experts. 

George Odongo, the Chairperson of the East African Legislative Assembly (EALA), Uganda Chapter said by the time the disease broke out in the region, there was a leadership crisis and countries were already bickering, a situation that has only been worsened.   

He said all the initial meetings that were organized to nip the disease in the bud before more truck drivers could contract the disease were either skipped by some or didn’t happen. He was speaking  at a virtual meeting held on Friday  to discuss how the region has handled COVID-19 cases.

Philip Kasaija Apuuli, a professor of Politics at Makerere University says even as COVID-19 continued to pose a threat, the council of Ministers of Health only got to sit for the first time at the end of March and the regional response document which largely remains on paper was not finalized until last month. 

The response, Apuuli says was affected by the political friction since there was bickering at the time between Uganda and Rwanda, Tanzania and Kenya whereas Burundi was preoccupied by the election. He added that other countries owe a feeling Uganda’s President Yoweri Museveni wants to dominate the bloc.

Dora Byamukama, a former member of the legislative assembly said that the issue of drivers shouldn’t have caused chaos especially that they were pushing for East African Citizens and had planned to issue a regional passport this year. 

For her, the current situation renders all these useless and exposes the bloc as only transactional with countries pushing private interests.

But although several pundits have declared the EAC dead because of the current tension, Kasaija says the community still has a lot of other things that they agree on saying what needs to be cleared is what countries can do as a bloc and what can’t be done.     

On Thursday, Kenyan Truck drivers at Malaba on the border of Uganda with Kenya staged a demonstration complaining about the stringent measures put in place by Ugandan authorities as a way of halting the spread of the viral respiratory disease. 

Also, recently Uganda revised its COVID-19 positive cases figures throwing out the positive  foreign truck drivers picked from the various border points of Elegu, Malaba and Mutukula even as this is against the directive by the World Health Organization.

According to the WHO, countries are expected to record whatever case they testbpositive as their own. But the explanation from Uganda has been inconclusive yet elsewhere in the region, authorities have several times announced that their truck drivers had been wrongly declared positive. 

Because of this, Tanzania has claimed Kenya had declared their driversbpositive only to disorganize their tourism industry. Because of these disagreements, the meeting attended by over 90 people recommended a review of the EAC treaty which was signed in 1999 and came into force in 2000 with provisions on what member countries were to do in Unisom and the responsibilities of each of the members.

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