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East African Community leaders to meet in Arusha, Tanzania

Preparations for the extraordinary heads of state East African Community (EAC) summit have been concluded, with leaders expected to convene in Arusha on February 27.

The permanent secretary of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Ambassador Patrick Mugoya, on Monday confirmed the summit, saying leaders are now discussing whether it will held virtually or physically owing to the prevalence of COVID-19 and the need to ensure strict observance of the standard operating procedures (SOPs).

“The EAC summit has been proposed for February 27. However, what has not yet been agreed on is how it will be held. Whether it will be held through virtual means or the heads of state will congregate in Arusha,” he said.

“It is a regular summit. What will happen is that we shall have meetings leading to the final summit. We shall have senior officials meeting between February 22 and 23. Then a committee of permanent secretaries of foreign affairs ministries will meet on February 24,” he added, noting that the Programme detailing what the presidents will discuss will be crafted by the council of ministers.

“When the council of ministers meets on February 25, it will draft the final Programme for the heads of state,” he said.

The EAC bloc, which is chaired by President Paul Kagame, is a glomeration of six countries — Uganda, Kenya, Rwanda, South Sudan, Tanzania and Burundi.

It is expected that the proposal to admit the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) into the regional bloc will also be discussed as leaders convene in Arusha this month.

After a series of postponements, the EAC leaders held a virtual consultative meeting in May last year, where they appealed for a joint regional approach to the COVID-19 pandemic, especially the harmonization of the system for certification and sharing of COVID-19 test results.

The economic recovery of the region in the post-COVID19 era and the need to enhance bilateral talks to unlock cross-border challenges and related border closures by neighboring countries were also discussed.

“The heads of state noted that the region’s key economic sectors are experiencing a slowdown as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, such as agriculture, trade, manufacturing and industry, tourism, hospitality and entertainment and directed partner states to prioritize regional value/supply chains to support local production of essential medical products and supplies including masks, sanitizers, soaps, coveralls, face shields, processed food, ventilators as part of efforts to combat covid-19 in the region,” EAC leaders, Yoweri Museveni (Uganda), Paul Kagame (Rwanda), Uhuru Kenyatta (Kenya) and Salva Kiir (South Sudan) noted in a communiqué issued in May last year.

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