Uganda imports goods worth nearly Shs3 trillion) from Kenya while it exports to Kenya goods only worth just over Shs600 billion annually.
Kenya, Tanzania, Rwanda, and Burundi, belong to the East African Community (EAC) with a common market which was specifically created to facilitate easy and smooth trading between member states.
Through the EAC, the first one (1967-1976) and the second (2000 todate), the member countries have done a lot to make sure that all barriers to smooth trading and co-operation are legally removed or reduced. All because it was the imbalance in trade and politics among others, between member states which led to the collapse of the first EAC.
Since the revival of the East African Community, there have been fewer bottlenecks in inter-trade until a few weeks ago when some Kenyan politicians started a campaign against importation of sugar from Uganda into Kenya. The campaign is led by the leader of opposition in Kenya Raila Odinga.
Kenya produces about 600,000 tonnes annually but it consumes about 850,000 tonnes leaving a shortfall of about 250,000 which have to be imported to address the deficit. Uganda on the other hand, produces about 465,000 tonnes of sugar annually and consumes around 320,000 tonnes, leaving it with a surplus of 145,000-tonnes.
Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta says: ‘We would rather import sugar from Uganda than from Brazil so as to support our own and to promote the regional integration’.
The President of Uganda, Yoweri Museveni says that Uganda has been supporting Kenya’s prosperity for all these years and caanot understand why any Kenyan politician should object to Kenya importing sugar from Uganda when it is a fact that Kenya is not producing enough for its consumption?
He in fact says, ‘Ugandan sugar should go to Kenya without hindrance just as Kenyan goods come to Uganda without any hindrance’.
The Secretary General of the EAC Richard Sezibera says: ‘Kenya has no right to stop Ugandan sugar from being sold within its territory as long as both countries are members of the EAC’. He adds that ‘the same rule applies to any of the five EAC member states that attempts to restrict trade or movement of goods produced within the region from reaching each other’s market’.
The EAC boss clarifies that, that is why the East Africa Legislative Assembly (Eala) has passed a law that requires a member country subjected to non-tariff barriers (NTBs) by another member state to be compensated.
He says: ‘Restriction of movement of goods (among them sugar) is a barrier to trade and in future, Uganda could seek compensation for that and so can any other EAC country whose goods are blocked from entering another country within the bloc’.
Uganda has removed all barriers that interfere with the spirit of the regional integration. That is why the president instructed that Kenyans studying in Uganda should be charged the same amount of fees like they charge Ugandans.
“One people, one destiny” is the slogan of the East African Community (EAC) re-established in 2001. We are one people and we all cherish prosperity. That is why Kenyan politicians like Charles Mugane Njonjo, who not long ago admitted that they celebrated in Nairobi when the first East African Community broke up in 1977, must be told not to waste our development time.
Njonjo told the media: ‘I celebrated with quite a number of people whom I don’t want to name and we tossed champagne at the Norfolk Hotel because many Kenyans didn’t believe the community was benefitting our people’.
The same Njonjo is back after so many years and he says he is still against free movement of people within the region as if he is not aware of the slogan of the new Community.
As for Mr Raila Odinga, he needs to be told straight in his face that if he is against the ideals of the EAC, he will be fought by the entire Community because the community is about people and not political maneuvers.