All the Six leaders of the East African Community (EAC) are holding a virtual summit on Wednesday next week, which could be the last under current rules.
The Leaders of Rwanda, Uganda, Kenya, Tanzania, South Sudan and Burundi will hold their 18th Extraordinary Summit on December 22.
In attendance will be Presidents Paul Kagame, Rwanda; Uhuru Kenyatta, Kenya; Salva Kiir, South Sudan; Samia Suluhu, Tanzania; Evariste Ndayishimiye, Burundi; and Yoweri Museveni, Uganda.
For past 7 years since at least 2014, these summits have been rare, due to squabbling among the different leaders. By the time of every summit in December, there was a geopolitical battle happening between two or three member States.
As a result, the summits were postponed because one leader was not available. It came down to how happy everyone was with everyone. If one leader was upset with one, and didn’t want to attend the summit, then there was no summit altogether.
This was so because of Rule 11 of the Rules of Procedure of the Heads of State Summit. It requires that all the leaders MUST be present for a quorum to be met.
Article 12 of the EAC Treaty stipulates that decisions must be by consensus, and therefore agreed upon by all the six current leaders. If any of the leaders opts not to attend the summit, no summit takes place, and therefore no decisions.
The deadlock has paralyzed the EAC bloc, and the Secretariat based in Arusha, Tanzania. Since it gets all go-ahead on anything from the Summit, very little was happening there, except for fights over job slots.
The 44th Extra Ordinary Council of Ministers held on November 21, and chaired by Kenya’s EAC minister Aden Mohamed came up with plans to amend the summit rules.
The ministers agreed that the Consensus Protocol to the Summit be changed.
The ministers propose that decisions of the summit will be by consensus, failing which by a two-thirds majority will carry the day.
The Ministers also recommended that the rules of procedure of the summit and the council should be amended to enable a quorum of two thirds of the members of the summit and council.
The fact that the Bloc’s line ministers agreed on the amendments, means very likely the leaders will simply sign the agreement because by the time the ministers agree, all the capitals would have endorsed the plan.
It means that on Wednesday next week, the leaders will obviously change the rules of their Summit.
It will also mean that going forward, as long as 4 of the states are present for a summit, a decision will be taken and be binding on everyone. That will break the deadlock that had paralyzed the community.
At their Wednesday summit, the leaders are likely to approve the entry of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, adding a newest 7th member.
The leaders will be meeting virtually for the second year in a row, blaming it on COVID-19, yet they have been traveling to international meetings in other regions throughout the past two years.
There are also proposals on how the budget of the community will be funded. Arrears were about $33 million as of April 2020, The East African newspaper reported.
The council also proposed a reduction of the number of East African Legislative Assembly (EALA) MPs from each country from nine to five.
The current EALA members are furious. They have been holding sessions at their chamber and dissing the plans. If the decision has been taken by the ministers, there is very little the lawmakers can do.