Coronavirus update: E. Africa postpones Heads of State meeting

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The East African Community (EAC) has put off what would have been the bloc’s first attempt to develop a regional response to the coronavirus pandemic.

This emergency meeting falls under the jurisdiction of the regional charter that allows for convening of what is referred to as an ‘extraordinary’ meeting. It is extraordinary because it occurs outside the scheduled ‘Ordinary’ meetings.

Well, speaking of putting off meetings, even the scheduled Ordinary meeting that was due to be held at the end of February was also postponed.

Back to the coronavirus response extraordinary meeting, the sitting East African Community (EAC) Chairman, Rwanda’s President Paul Kagame called the meeting.

If or rather, when it is held, this will be the first time the whole region comes together to formulate a response plan. Other than two or more member states reaching their own consensus, usually on border trade agreements; there has not been a regional plan on how to respond to the pandemic

The issues are many and the scope is huge, the impact could mean saving the bloc from historic catastrophe. From hunger to social unrest, from economic failure to political collapse, the threat of coronavirus in the region could have devastating effects.

Hence, a regional consensus on how to respond, as a regional bloc, is not only vital it is the very basis to evading or at least mitigating the effects of the threat and its aftermath.

We are talking of a region of  more than 177 million people, how to keep peace and order, ensure food security and financial stability is a daunting task, to say the least. Response means manning a land area of 2.5 million square kilometers.

The East African Community (EAC) is made up of six Partner States, comprising Burundi, Kenya, Rwanda, South Sudan, Tanzania and Uganda. The bloc has its headquarters in Arusha, Tanzania where the meetings are usually held.

This time around the meeting would have been on a conference call and when held, will make a huge difference on the outcome of this pandemic in the region.

The meetings have been postponed to give the Republic of South Sudan, which room to complete ongoing formation of a transitional government that will bring together the government and opposition groups to the table to form some form of Union administration.

Poor response means losing combined Gross Domestic Product of USD 193 billion.  The stakes are just too big to overlook. However, the EAC’s attempt to hold this very important meeting on a regional response to the coronavirus pandemic is actually been stifled by its own charter.

Decision making at the EAC is by consensus with quorum being constituted by the presence of all Partner States. The absence of one Partner State would therefore mean that there would be no quorum for the Summit meeting as per the Rules of Procedure of the Summit, Rule 11 – EAC Charter.

Also Read:Cronavirus update: EAC trade down $380m in a week

Giza Mdoe is an experienced journalist with 10 plus years. He's been a Creative Director on various brand awareness campaigns and a former Copy Editor for some of Tanzania's leading newspapers. He's a graduate with a BA in Journalism from the University of San Jose.

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