Arusha. The East African Community (EAC) denied yesterday that the heads of state summit initially scheduled for November 30 in Arusha was postponed because of regional tensions.
EAC secretary-general Liberat Mfumukeko said cordial relations exist among member states, adding that reports that the postponement was an indication of widening cracks within the six-nation union were inaccurate.
“The partner states work together. If one country is missing, no meeting will take place.
“Any country has the right not to turn up provided its leader consulted with other presidents,” he told journalists at the EAC headquarters.
The summit was cancelled because of lack of quorum after one member state, believed to be Burundi, reportedly requested for its postponement.
Burundi asked that the annual meeting of regional leaders be rescheduled, citing important domestic issues, including preparations for the country’s 2020 elections.
Mr Mfumukeko defended the EAC against criticism, saying it was unfair to focus on problems facing integration efforts alone without acknowledging notable achievements such as road construction.
He said despite all the challenges, the East African region was more integrated today than some years back, thanks to infrastructure development.
“There are things we need to appreciate. If our people are united, it is a big plus,” Mr Mfumukeko said, adding that pessimism hanging over the regional body was partly due to a scarcity of resources to implement some of its key projects.
He added, however, that member states were still struggling with poverty.
“EAC economies are still weak. We are not strong. Half of our citizens are still struggling in poverty.”
Mr Mfumukeko said the infrastructure sector was the main beneficiary of the regional organisation’s drive to mobilise resources and coordinate implementation.
He cited $2.5 billion in financial support pledged last year by the African Development Bank (AfDB) for implementation of various infrastructure projects in the region as a vivid example.
The funds, extended as loans and grants, would be spent to implement major road projects, including construction of the $800 million (Sh1.84 trillion) Bagamoyo-Tanga-Horohoro-Mombasa-Malindi road.
Meanwhile, EAC deputy secretary-general Steven Mlote said the media has been unfairly criticising the community.
He cited recent reports of delayed remittances to EAC coffers by some partner states despite the situation having improved.
Mr Mlote said 40 per cent of funds expected from member states in the 2019/20 financial year have been remitted.