Why EAC Ranked Top in Regional Integration

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By Florence Gichoya

The inaugural Africa’s Regional Integration Index, ranked East Africa Community (EAC) as the top regional body in Africa. The report was compiled by African Development Bank (AfDB), African Union Commission (AUC) and Economic Commission for Africa (ECA), and was released on April 2 2016, in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.

The Index, showed the progress and impact of regional integration in the continent. It looked at 28 indicators among them regional infrastructure, trade integration, productive integration, free movement of people and goods, and financial integration.

Africa has 8 regional intergovernmental organizations under the African Union. East Africa Community (EAC), Economic Community of Central African States (ECCAS), Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD), Community of Sahel-Saharan States (CEN-SAD), Southern African Development Community (SADC), and Arab Maghreb Union (UMA).

Overall, EAC was ranked the most integrated region, followed by SADC and ECOWAS came third. CEN-SAD was ranked the least integrated region. IGAD, which Kenya is a member, was ranked the best performer in the area of infrastructure.

Free movement across borders

On January 1 2014, the tripartite partnership of Kenya, Uganda and Rwanda launched the use of national identity cards to travel across the three countries. “Time has come for us to remove colonial boundary barriers that have kept us apart and also isolated the people from interacting and doing business freely.” President Uhuru Kenyatta said.

The initiative’s aim was to encourage more integration, free movement of goods and services in the region that would boost the economy. “This is what we have agreed as leaders so that our people can interact by visiting each other’s country to do business and develop domestic tourism.” Uhuru said. So far the project has had considerable success, evidenced by the favorable ranking in the Africa’s Regional Integration Index.

EAC has also been commended for implementing easy travel for tourists intending to visit the region. On February 20 2014, the East Africa single tourist visa for Kenya, Uganda and Rwanda was launched by Presidents Uhuru Kenyatta, Yoweri Museveni and Paul Kagame. Tourists need not apply for visas from the three visas, the 90 days visa allows multiple entries in the three countries. Kenya, Uganda and Rwanda also embarked on marketing the region in international tourism fairs.

However, research has shown the project is still unpopular in the region. Kenya Tourism Federation announced in June 25 last year that 58 per cent of tourists had not used the single tourist visa, due to lack of awareness.

The Africa’s Regional Integration Index reported that, “When visa or work permit restrictions are cut, gains in time and resources open up, which supports more competitive businesses and economies.”

Africa Union Passports

Just like the European Union (EU) issues EU passports to citizens of its member states. The African Union (AU) will soon launch African passports to all Africans. The AU plans to issue the 53 Head of states, with the passports in efforts to popularize the travel document to their citizens.

EU passport holders don’t need visas to travel across Europe; likewise, AU passport holders will freely access all African countries without restrictions. “A few of us at the AU are already using that passport within Africa, and it is very useful, but we want the heads of states to carry it when they are visiting African countries to make it official and known to others as well.” Dr.  Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma, Chairperson of the African Union Commission said.

African continent is still beset by restrictions of free movement of goods and services. During the African Leadership Forum held in Dar es Salam in July 2015. Olesugun Obasanjo, Nigeria’s former president called for the abolition of visas by African governments. “What we need to do in order to speed the integration process is to abolish visas in Africa. West African countries have done it and it is working.” He said.

According to AfDB’s Africa Visa Openness Index (2016), 55 per cent of African countries still issue visas to African travellers intending to visit their countries. Only 20 per cent of African countries, allow visitors without visas. Seychelles has the best visa openness policy. “Visa openness promotes talent mobility and business opportunities. Africa’s leader’s and policymakers have a key role to play in helping Africans to move freely in support of  (AU) Agenda 2063’s call, to abolish visa requirements for all Africans by 2018.” Moono Mupotola, AfDB’s Director of Regional Integration and Trade said.

European Union

The European Union has succeeded in economic and political integration, compared to other regional bodies in the world. It has a membership of 28 countries and has existed for more than 55 years.

Within the EU, there’s free movement of people and goods. In 1999, it successfully launched the Euro, replacing the member countries’ currencies, with the exception of Britain and Denmark.

The regional body was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 2012, for contributing, ‘to the advancement of peace and reconciliation, democracy and human rights in Europe.’

Although Europe is a leading regional body, it is currently facing the threat of terrorism from Islamic State. It also has to cope with unprecedented immigration crisis, which has deeply divided EU’s membership on its policy on open borders for asylum seekers.

Terrorists attacks in EU’s capital Brussels, Belgium, on March 22 2016 that killed 31 people. And the deadly Paris terror attacks in 2015 have caused proponents of EU to be apprehensive on regional cohesion. Countries like Britain and France are now calling for tougher measures on EU’s immigration policy.

Another challenge for EU is the looming exit of Britain, the exit dubbed ‘Brexit’ will be determined by a referendum in 2017. Britain, a leading economy in Europe, has maintained its national currency, sterling pound, and declined to adapt the Euro currency. It has also restricted free flow of immigrants from Syria and other Middle East countries. If the referendum sails through, Britain will join Switzerland and Norway, which are the only European countries that are non-members of the EU.


Worrying Trend of Violence Against Journalists and Threats to Media Freedom in Eastern Africa

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By Florence Gichoya

ARTICLE 19 Eastern Africa recently launched a report on cases of human rights violations against journalists and media outlets across East Africa since January 2013. At least 13 journalists have been killed in the region showing a worrying trend of media intimidation.

Somali remains the deadliest country in the region for journalists, where the group notes the killing of 10 journalists so far this year.

The report provides a snapshot of the violence and intimidation including reports of death punitive legal action taken in relation to media reports, as well as bans to publications and broadcasts for the past ten months.

“The killing of journalists is the ultimate form of censorship and a severe blow to democracy. The authorities must make every effort to bring those responsible for these killings to justice or risk the security situation deteriorating even further” said Henry Maina, Director of ARTICLE 19 East Africa.

It is important that all stakeholders take responsibility in proper evidence documentation and not blanket accusing government or political parties. Journalists need to hold each other accountable. “While impunity reigns, corruption also reigns in journalists” Henry Maina observed. The common cry of “poor pay” is not sufficient to warrant compromising the rule of law. Journalists should work together to weed out the rot in the profession.

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Patrick Mutahi, the Programme Officer – ARTICLE 19 Eastern Africa

Patrick Mutahi the programme officer with ARTICLE 19 observed that all Eastern African countries have enacted national laws guaranteeing freedom of expression and freedom of media. However, there have been cases of deliberate attacks on editors in Tanzania and hostile environment on investigative work in Kenya. In Uganda there have been reported cases of journalists’ assaults and arrests. In May 2013, media houses like Daily Monitor, KFM, and Dembe FM were shut down by the state.

Rwanda has seen three journalists arrested and on 4th June 2013 copies of the Rwandan newspapers Impamo, Rushyashya and Intego were confiscated by guards in Gatuna at the border with Uganda. The guards alleged that the newspapers contained information that President Paul Kagame might seek re-election for a third term. Five days later, the newspapers were released after the media owners agreed not to publish the information.

Somalia is a conflict zone and there are constant deliberate attacks on media workers by clans, warlords, and alshabab. This year alone 10 Somali journalists have been killed, 4 media houses banned and 22 journalists arrested. Rahmo Abdulkadir a Somali journalist who worked for Abudwaq media network was shot dead on 24th March 2013. No arrests have been made despite the police promising to investigate. Fu’ad Nur Alasow who worked for Radio Al-Fuqaa was shot dead by Al-Shaabab after the terrorist group accused him of spying for the government.

Eritrea is a closed country that is run in presidential decrees since the constitution was suspended. There are scores of Eritrean journalists in exile or imprisoned by the state and the numbers are not ascertained. There is lack of political will to promote freedom of expression in the country.

Fasil Girma a journalist from Ethiopia during the Report launch
Fasil Girma a journalist from Ethiopia during the Report launch

In Ethiopia, the government controls the flow of information and journalists are not allowed to form a professional association. The country has only one state TV broadcaster and only government sponsored newspapers are in circulation. The anti-terrorism law adopted in 2009 has been used by the state to intimidate journalists and arrest them. Solomon Kadebe an Ethiopian journalist with Yemuslimoch Guday Magazine was detained in January 2013 and his case is being held in a closed court.

Lawrence Mute, Commissioner at Africa Commission on Human and People’s Rights emphasized that “impunity cannot be resolved outside the political context; it is lazy to ascribe all impunity to the state organs. Media ownership, business community interests and terror groups like Al Shabab also play a key role in propagating impunity in the region.”

The report was launched to coincide with the International Day to End Impunity which is commemorated on 23rd November. Impunity has had a chilling effect on the media in the region with many journalists opting for self-censorship. The society is left with a vastly controlled media that is not protected and unable to provide the public with objective information on vital issues. Instigators of attacks on journalists are rarely held accountable thus leading to impunity cycle.

This report has been compiled from initial media monitoring by ARTICLE 19 Eastern Africa. It includes information about cases in Eritrea, Ethiopia, Kenya, Rwanda, Somalia, Tanzania and Uganda. These incidents are currently under investigation by ARTICLE 19 which is working to verify and fully document the human rights abuses against journalists and media outlets in each country.