East African leaders yesterday vowed to combat terrorism with unwavering determination.
They resolved to spare no effort or resources in the war against terrorists and other perpetrators of crime within the region.
“We are united to implement counter terrorism measures as a matter of urgency”, they said at the end of their one-day summit at the Arusha International Conference Centre (AICC).
The 12th Extraordinary Summit of the East African Community (EAC) Heads of State condemned the recent terrorist attacks in Kenya and urged all five member states come up with appropriate measures to neutralise the threat posed by al Shabaab militants from Somalia. Insurgency and other transnational crimes featured at the summit hosted by President Jakaya Kikwete and attended by presidents Yoweri Museveni of Uganda and Uhuru Kenyatta of Kenya. Burundi and Rwanda were represented by First Vice President Prosper Bazombaza and Prime Minister Pierre Damien Habumuremyi, respectively.
Addressing the plenary session, President Kenyatta, who is the current chair of the EAC Summit, said East Africans were not living in isolation in the world which that is now too familiar to the terrorist attacks. He added that the people in the region must be prepared to address the looming threat. He particularly cited Al Shabaab militants from Somalia, who have been blamed for a string of murderous attacks in Mombasa and Nairobi.
“Somalia is our neighbour but law and order has eluded that country for two decades,” he said, noting that the East African region was also concerned by the on-going bloody conflict in South Sudan.
The Kenyan minister for EAC Affairs and current chair of the EAC Council of Ministers, Ms Phyllis Kandie, told the Summit that the magnitude of terrorist attacks the region has endured in recent times called for increased vigilance.
“The growing threat of terrorism means peace and security are critical for regional integration,” she said.
The regional leaders, according to a communiqué issued at the end of the Summit, reiterated their unwavering determination to collectively work together to combat terrorism in eastern Africa and the Great Lakes Region and called on the security agencies to intensify their cooperation aimed at combating terrorism and insurgency.
The Summit directed the EAC Council of Ministers to implement counter-terrorism strategy as a matter of urgency “with a view to safeguarding fundamental rights and freedom of the people of East Africa”. The communiqué, read by EAC Secretary-General Richard Sezibera, said the process for the admission of South Sudan into the bloc had been postponed until September or October “in order to allow her (Juba) undertake national preparations and consultations”.
Both sides of the conflict in South Sudan whose recent fighting has led to the killing of tens of thousands of people and the displacement of more others were urged to resolve their differences peacefully.
The Summit appointed Justice Emmanuel Ugirashebuja from Rwanda the new President of the East African Court of Justice (EACJ) to replace Justice Harold Nsekela from Tanzania, whose tenure ends in June.
Justice Liboire Nkurunziza ( Burundi) will be the Vice President of the court and will replace Justice Kiptoo Tanoi from Kenya.
Justice Aaron Ringera and Justice Edward M.K. Rutakangwa, from Kenya and Tanzania, respectively, were appointed judges in the Appellate Division of EACJ while Justice Fakihi A. Jundu from Tanzania will join the First Instance Division of the regional court.
The summit also renewed the contract of Dr Enos Bukuku from Tanzania as deputy secretary-general in charge of Planning and Infrastructure. The former deputy governor with the Bank of Tanzania (BoT), was first appointed in April 2011.