ARUSHA— The Secretary General of the East African Community, Hon (Dr.) Peter Mathuki, together with the Speaker of the East African Legislative Assembly, Rt. Hon. Martin Ngoga, and the Judge President of the East African Court of Justice, Justice Nestor Kayobera paid a courtesy call on the President of of Burundi, His Excellency Évariste Ndayishimiye, at the Presidential Palace, in Gitega, Burundi on Saturday.
During the visit, the Secretary General expressed his gratitude to the President and other members of the EAC Summit for his appointment as the sixth Secretary General of the Community.
“I am cognizant of the very heavy responsibilities inherent in this appointment. I shall therefore seek your wisdom and guidance on how best we, as a Community, can push the integration agenda further,” said Dr. Mathuki.
“We as the leaders of the EAC Organs have resolved to enhance our collaboration and are committed to work together towards attaining the vision of the Community as guided by our Heads of State,” added the Secretary General.
Dr. Mathuki briefed the President on the current EAC state of play on various integration matters including the ongoing efforts toward including French and Kiswahili as official languages of the Community, as was directed by the 21st Ordinary Meeting of the EAC Heads of State held on 27th February, 2021.
“I have forwarded official communication to various stakeholders to establish the infrastructure to incorporate French and Kiswahili as official languages of the Community,” said Dr. Mathuki.
The Secretary General further said that the EAC was in the final stages of constituting a team of experts from the EAC Organs and Partner States to visit the Democratic Republic of Congo in June 2021 to undertake a verification mission to assess the country’s suitability to be admitted into the Community.
With regard to development initiatives, Dr. Mathuki informed the Head of State that the EAC was in the process of identifying national competitive advantages, adding that Burundi boasts fertile soils and high agricultural yields and the EAC was therefore keen on supporting the agricultural sector in the country.
“We have all seen the farm produce in Burundi and we are now looking into devising strategies that that will support the growth and development of the agricultural sector in Burundi,” added Dr. Mathuki.
On infrastructure, the Secretary General informed the President that various EAC infrastructure development initiatives were currently underway to interlink Burundi and the rest of the region. Such projects include the Manyovu/Mugina – Makamba -Nyanza Lac – Rumonge –Bujumbura section of the Sumbawanga Corridor as well as plans to construct a One Stop Border Post (OSBP) at the Malaba/Gusuru and development of the Tanganyika and Kalemi Ports.
“We are also looking into ways to develop Lake Tanganyika for better provision as an inland waterway as well as upscaling the fishing industry,” said Dr. Mathuki.
On his part, President Ndayishimiye commended the close collaboration between the Organs and Institutions of the Community, adding that the same spirit should be emulated by the Partner States.
“We must have regional unity for with unity, we shall have a strong foundation and together will be able to do anything. As members of the Community, we should communicate with each other, as well as with EAC Organs and Institutions to ensure we realise our vision,” said the President.
The President commended the Secretary General for the progress made towards the inclusion of French and Kiswahili as official languages of the Community, as well as the upcoming verification mission to the Democratic Republic of Congo.
On development priorities, the President said that Burundi was currently promoting agriculture as an avenue to national development. “The people of Burundi are busy in the fields. However, there is need to train them on how best they can explore the export markets,” added President Ndayishimiye.
President Ndayishimiye further noted that Burundi has also prioritised women and youth empowerment through access to finance by establishing a bank for women as well as another bank for the youth.
The President called for enhanced regional connectivity through infrastructure development, such as roads, railways, and communications to boost the movement of people across the region.
“We need to be able to move freely, and also communicate easily. It is now time for Burundi to relook into joining the East African One Area Network in order to ease communication to other Partner States,” he added.
The President reassured the EAC delegation of his commitment to the EAC integration, adding that while some of the Partner States might be more developed than others, the vision of a united and prosperous region remains.
The heads of the EAC Organs were accompanied by the EAC Deputy Secretary General in charge of the Productive and Social Sectors, Hon. Christophe Bazivamo, and the EAC Director General for Customs and Trade, Mr. Kenneth Bagamuhunda.