The long-awaited national consultations for the drafting of the EAC Political Confederation Constitution for Uganda has finely kicked,withthe first session of stakeholders drawn from all the districts of South Western Uganda, being held in Kabale district
The 14-day consultations will see the team of constitutional experts for drafting the EAC Political Federation Constitution hold consultations with civil society, local leaders, opinion leaders and the business community among other stakeholders to seek their views on what kind of a Political Confederation they would desire for the EAC.
Apart from Entebbe and Kabale, the team of experts will hold consultations in Mbarara, Mbale, Gulu, Arua and the capital city Kampala.
In his opening remarks, the Chairperson of the team of constitutional experts, Hon. Justice Benjamin Odoki,the former Uganda Chief Justice said that, the views of all stakeholders including civil society, political leaders, local authorities, private sector, academia and opinion leaders would be taken in account while drafting the constitution for the Confederation, thus the national consultations that would be held in all the six (6) EAC Partner States.
Justice Odoki disclosed that the Republic of Burundi had the first round of consultations in January 2020 that he described as a success, adding that this would inform and guide consultations in other Partner States going forward.
Justice Odoki pointed out that the outbreak of the Covid-19 pandemic and the elections in Burundi and Uganda over the past one year had slowed down the progress of the national consultations but expressed hope that the future was now bright with the advent of the Covid vaccines and the peaceful elections in Burundi and Uganda.
The retired Chief Justice of Uganda clarified that the Terms of Reference for the team was to draft a constitution for the Political Confederation, which is transitional model to the Political Federation as enshrined in the Treaty for the Establishment of the EAC.
Senator and former Attorney General of Kenya, Amos Wako, who is also the Deputy Chairperson of the Team of Experts, urged participants from South Western Uganda to tell the team what powers the proposed Confederation should have in order to resolve emerging issues on the integration journey.
In their submissions to the experts at the Kabale forum, some of the participants called for free trade that was not limited by tariffs, free education in other Partner States without limitations, lack of limitations on freedom of worship, and uniform national laws, policies and regulations in the entire region.
Other participants urged Partner States to implement the first free pillars of the integration, namely: the Customs Union; Common Market, and; Monetary Union before starting discussions on the Political Federation.
Darious Nandinda the Kabale District Resident Commissioner called for the Political Confederation to be fast-tracked as a way of resolving the challenges to the other stages of the integration.
He further asked for quick resolution of existing disputes among Partner States even as consultations continue for the Political Confederation.
There were also calls by participants that Partner States seeking to join the Community must abide fully to the criteria as spelled out in the Treaty.
The objectives of the National Consultations for the EAC Political Confederation are threefold:
Enhance awareness on the ongoing Constitution-making process for transforming the EAC into a Political Confederation;
Obtain stakeholders’ views on their interests and key issues to inform the drafting of model Confederation and subsequently a Confederal Constitution in line with the principle of people-centred regional community, and;
Prepare the public in general to give their inputs into the draft Constitution once it will be drafted.
The Political Federation is the fourth and ultimate pillar in the EAC integration process. The Political Federation is preceded by three pillars, namely the: Customs Union, Common Market and Monetary Union in that order.
The Summit of EAC Heads of State in May 2017 adopted a Political Confederation as the transitional model to the Political Federation. The Team of Experts was appointed by the Summit in February 2018 and is chaired by Justice Benjamin Odoki, retired Chief Justice of Uganda. Justice Odoki is deputised by Busia (Kenya) Senator Amos Wako, who is also a former Kenyan Attorney General.