Kenya eyes EAC post as Burundi in doubt

Four Burundi citizens and a similar number of Kenyans are in the race to succeed Dr Richard Sezibera when his term as Secretary-General of the East African Community ends early next year.

Although it is Burundi’s turn to nominate a citizen to the position, the insecurity in the country could prove a hindrance, hence the Kenyans’ decision to wait in the wings.

The SG’s post is rotational and the occupant of the seat is chosen by the head of state of the appointing country.

Burundi’s contestants are Foreign Affairs Minister Alain Nyamitwe former EAC deputy SG – productive and social sector Jean Claude Nsengiyumva EAC Deputy SG – Finance and Administration Libérat Mfumukeko and the country’s East African Legislative Assembly MP Hafsa Mossi, a former journalist.

The Kenyans said to be lobbying for the position are Abdirahin Abdi, the former EALA speaker Peter Kiguta, the EAC Director-General of Customs and Trade EAC Deputy SG Charles Njoroge and Joseph Nyagah, national co-ordinator for the Northern Corridor Integration Project and a former Cabinet minister.

It is expected that the new secretary-general will be sworn in at the EAC Ordinary Heads of State Summit in Dar es Salaam in February and not in April as earlier thought.

“The summit that was to be held this month (November 30) has been pushed to February next year to allow Tanzania’s new government under the new president John Magufuli to settle into office,” said a source privy to the arrangements.

“Thus it is better for the presidents to have a new secretary-general sworn in during this time since it will be two months to the expiry of the current secretary-general’s term.”

The source added that the EAC Council of Ministers, who meet before the heads of state, cannot convene in the absence of Tanzania’s representation.

Uganda, Kenya, Rwanda and Tanzania are yet to announce officially what they think about the seat but sources familiar with the system say the issue is being discussed behind the scenes and consultations are ongoing to persuade Burundi to let Kenya hold the position for the next five years and then hand over to them.

“The biggest concern for the four partners is that, if the post is given to Burundi, the Community could lag behind in development programmes as donors, many of whom have frozen aid to Burundi, may withhold funding to the Community,” said the source.

The election of Dr Sezibera, a surgeon who also served as Rwandan President Paul Kagame’s special envoy to the Great Lakes region, saw contention between Kenya and Rwanda.

While Rwanda maintained that the one-year period that Kenya’s then head of civil service Francis Muthaura served between 1999 and 2000 should count as a full term, Kenya argued that he was not the secretary-general but only laid the ground for the revival of the EAC that collapsed in 1977.

Mr Muthaura was charged with putting in place the EAC Treaty and institutional structures that would provided the crucial bedrock for the stable integration of the Community.

Dr Sezibera’s retirement means Rwanda now joins Uganda and Tanzania in that order as member states that have served out their full terms.