Kenya’s deputy president, William Ruto has described as “concerning” incidents where borders are being closed or animals being auctioned because they cross from one country to another within the East African Community (EAC).
He said that the region should be moving towards deeper integration and eliminating work permits rather than actions that are retrogressive to the gains already made within the region.
Ruto raised the concern Tuesday while speaking at the Africa Now summit held at Speke Resort Munyonyo. The summit which was co-chaired by President Yoweri Museveni was attended by Somali President, Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed Farmaajo and Tanzania’s Vice President, Samia Hassan Suluhu among other delegates.
Kenya’s deputy president who delivered a keynote address on Tuesday afternoon said that it is unfortunate that leaders in East Africa continue to alter from the right course that they know they should be taking.
“When I listen to leaders in East Africa, everybody speaks the right language. I don’t know what the problem is. We all know what we must do, what is right, but we don’t do that which is right,” Ruto said in his speech.
“We have cattle being auctioned in one country because they crossed a border, and a country’s border being blocked by another country in East Africa, or chicken being burnt in one country because they crossed a border,” Ruto said.
He said that these occurrences undermine the spirit of integration of the region.
“A border being blocked by another country. In East Africa, really? That makes us really concerned. We should be thinking of how to eliminate work permits and how to integrate this region better”.
His comments come at a time when diplomatic relations between Uganda and Rwanda have further deteriorated with both countries accusing each other of hostile activities aimed at destabilizing security.
The latest row was sparked by the closure by Rwanda of its main border with Uganda at Katuna, blocking over 100 Ugandan trucks loaded with cargo for over a week.
Many analysts said the customs paralysis which Rwanda attributed to ‘construction works’ on border post infrastructure was retrogressive to the efforts towards easing the movement of people and cargo in a bid to foster regional trade.
Meanwhile, Ruto also used Tuesday’s summit to appeal to Uganda’s President Museveni to continue offering leadership to the region as it pursues political federation.
“And your Excellency, you [Museveni] are the father figure in the region, we are looking up to you for leadership. You are the Mzee and you cannot run away from responsibility. I’m telling you this as your son,” Ruto told Museveni.
“You have to provide leadership to East Africa to march forward. We cannot afford to roll back from the gains we have made as East Africans. In fact, the discussion we should be having is the East African federation. We should not be discussing closing of borders. That is a retrogressive discussion,” he said.