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EAC urged to involve local Governments in integration agenda

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Local government stakeholders from the six East African Community (EAC) partner states have urged the regional bloc to enhance its integration agenda by actively involving local governments in planning and implementation processes.

The six countries include Burundi, Rwanda, Uganda, Kenya, Somalia and the Democratic Republic of Congo.

Gathering at the Kenya School of Government from April 22nd to 24th, 2024, the stakeholders, comprising Permanent Secretaries from Ministries of Local Government and EAC Affairs, representatives from umbrella bodies of counties and local government associations, donors, and civil society partners, convened to explore strategies for strengthening national-local cooperation to deepen devolution and EAC integration.

In her keynote address, Peninah Malonza, the Cabinet Secretary for the Ministry of EAC, ASALs (Arid and Semi-Arid Lands), and Regional Development in Kenya, underscored the link between devolution and integration, highlighting their joint objective of empowering grassroots communities.

She emphasized the need for subnational governments’ representation in EAC policies and decision-making processes and committed to advocating for the inclusion of the Arabic language within the EAC framework.

Hosting the meeting, Teresia Mbaika, the Principal Secretary for the State Department for Devolution in Kenya, described the retreat as an opportunity to assess Kenya’s devolution prospects and exchange insights with counterparts from the region.

She reaffirmed the Kenyan Government’s dedication to supporting counties’ economic transformation through digital innovation for efficient service delivery.

Mbaika also noted ongoing discussions to devolve remaining functions to county governments, reflecting improved relations between counties and the national government.

Expressing gratitude for the hospitality extended by Kenya, Jeannette Nyiramasengesho, Chairperson of the Eastern Africa Local Governments Association (EALGA), acknowledged the support of partners, including FDCO_UK Kenya, UNDP, and EALGA members, in facilitating the meeting.

She highlighted the contributions of various stakeholders, such as the Council of Governors, the County Assemblies Forum, and international organizations like the Commonwealth Local Government Forum (CLGF) and UN-HABITAT, in advancing devolution and integration efforts across the region.

Regina Bakitte, Mayor of Nansana Municipality in Uganda, emphasized the importance of the induction retreat in enhancing understanding of EAC integration and devolution for improved service delivery.

Meanwhile, Theophile Ndarufatiye, Permanent Secretary for Community Development and Public Security in Burundi, emphasized EALGA’s role in fostering knowledge-sharing and addressing challenges faced by local governments, including funding constraints and capacity building.

Established in 2013, the Eastern Africa Local Governments Forum (EALGF) aims to strengthen local governance systems in the EAC region through advocacy and lobbying for constitutional and statutory devolution of powers to sub-national units.

It operates under the leadership of a Coordinating Committee chaired by a Permanent Secretary and co-chaired by the Secretary General of EALGA, with representation from host country ministries and the EALGA Secretariat.

Meetings are chaired by Ministers of Local Governments and co-chaired by EALGA Chairpersons on an annual rotational basis.

Dickson Wekesa
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