President Kagame today at the 11th Summit of the Heads of State of the East African Community handed over the rotational chairmanship of the summit to President Jakwaya Kikwete of Tanzania.
President Kagame expressed satisfaction at having served the people of East Africa and the support he received since the beginning of the mandate in June 2008, saying he looked forward to working with the incoming chairperson as the community embarked on its second decade, “I wish to thank fellow Heads of State, the leaders of our Community organs, and all the people who work tirelessly for our communal benefit, for the support they accorded Rwanda as we have carried out this duty”.
In his acceptance speech President Kikwete commended President Kagame for his exemplary leadership, stating that the EAC has become much stronger since Rwanda took over the Chairmanship and promising to emulate his predecessor’s example.
In what was the highlight of the Summit, the five Heads of State of the East African Community signed the much anticipated Common Market Protocol that is expected to further bolster trade and economic activities in the East African region.
In his statement to the Summit, President Kagame described the signing of the protocol as a positive move towards boosting the competiveness of individual states in the region, “… we shall mark the passing of a region of individual states competing with each other and welcome a new East Africa of common interest and aspirations”. He called for the prompt ratification of the protocol and timely implementation scheduled for July 2010.
President Kagame lauded the community’s advancement towards a fully fledged Customs Union and pointed out the need to align national policies as well mitigate revenue loss through financial compensatory mechanisms, in order to make the union a meaningful success, “We need to continue working hard to implement the agreed practical measures required to achieve a fully fledged Customs Union in the time-frame we have set for ourselves”.
On cooperation in the area of defence and the recently concluded joint military exercises in different parts of the EAC, President Kagame noted that these were integration tools in their own right, “When the people of East Africa see our armed forces cooperating closely on the ground, the benefit of this community for their fundamental needs, such as security, becomes very real”.
President Kagame noted the positive impact of the joint promotion and branding of the East African Community as a single investment and tourism destination saying that the collective efforts showed the region as investor-friendly and rich in opportunity.
President Kagame also called for continued progress towards the merging of COMESA-EAC-SADC Free Trade Area, saying that the available Roadmap should be motivation to maintain momentum to achieve the vision of a Free Trade Area of half a billion people, leading to greater prosperity.
At the conclusion of the summit, the EAC Presidents unveiled the foundation stone and planted commemoration trees at the site of the East African Community Headquarters before proceeding to Arusha’s Shekh Abedid Stadium for celebrations to mark the 10th Anniversary of the signing of the EAC Treaty.