EAC moves to introduce decision making by majority By FRANCIS AYIEKO THE EAST AFRICAN Posted Saturday, December 27 2008 at 10:33 East Africas justice ministers and Attorneys-General will meet in January to kickstart the proposed amendment the East African Community Treaty to providing for majority rule as the basis for decision making. If the Treaty is amended, majority rule will replace consensus as the basis for decision-making. This means the progress of the integration process will not have to wait until all the five member states agree on every single issue. Only a simple majority will be required to move to the next level. According to Kenyas Minister for the East African Community Amason Jeffah Kingi, this move has been necessitated by the realisation that a member may deliberately disagree with the rest to frustrate the integration process. Mr Kingi confirmed the meeting will be held in Mombasa, but he did not confirm the date. We have decided it is time we looked again at the Treaty with a view to amending the decision making process to allow for majority rule. What motivated this is the realisation that a member state can decide just to frustrate the process by not attending the meeting or by simply dissenting without giving any good grounds for doing so and thus hold everyone back, Mr Kingi told The EastAfrican. The development comes in the wake of a major split between Kenya, Uganda, Rwanda and Burundi, on the one hand, and Tanzania on the other, over key issues being negotiated under the Common Market Protocol. In an earlier interview with The EastAfrican, Kenyas Permanent Secretary for East African Community Affairs, David Nalo, said the move was sparked by what is widely seen as Tanzanias doublespeak on its commitment to the integration of the Community as well as the countrys apparent refusal to agree with other member states on critical provisions of the draft Common Market Protocol such as free movement of persons, right of establishment and residence, and permanent residence. Should the Treaty be amended, then Kenya, Uganda, Rwanda and Burundi can move on with the integration process even when Tanzania disagrees with some decisions. Tanzanias reluctance over the integration process became apparent during the fifth round of negotiations on the Common Market held in Zanzibar a month ago. During the negotiations, Tanzania is said to have consistently opposed proposals by the other four member states that East Africans be allowed to use their respective national identity cards as travel documents in the region. It also refused to accept the inclusion of a clause that would allow East African citizens to acquire, access and use land in any member state. It further differed with the other members on the permanent residence clause and its representatives reportedly said they want to go slow on the EAC integration, Mr Nalo said last week. The disagreements have forced the Council of Ministers to extend the deadline for the conclusion of negotiations on the Common Market from December 2008 to April 2009. Incidentally, Tanzania is expected to state its position on the contentious issues by January. Two weeks ago, Tanzanias Minister for East African Co-operation, Dr Diodorous Kamala, defended his country against accusations that it was delaying negotiations on the Common Market, saying it would only sign agreements and treaties that safeguard Tanzanias national interests. Currently, the Treaty requires all the partner states to be represented at any substantive meeting for its decisions to be considered binding. With the challenges we are currently facing in terms of agreeing on various issues, the question that is being asked is if we want to continue with consensus as the basis for decision making, Mr Nalo asked. Or do we want to amend the Treaty to provide for decision making based on majority rule for those who are ready to move forward and those who are reluctant to join later? The move to amend the Treaty to change decision making is consistent with Article 7 of the Treaty, which states that if a country is not ready to move, it can take its time.