In a memorable occasion for the East African Legislative Assembly, founding First Ladies of the EAC including Mama Miria Kalule Obote late yesterday delivered motivating addresses at a Special Sitting held in Arusha.
Looking graceful yet resplendent, Uganda’s Mama Miria Obote and Kenya’s Mama Ngina Kenyatta brought back the good old memories of the first EAC and challenged EALA Members to ensure the future of integration is both guaranteed and realised.
Tanzania’s Mama Maria Nyerere sent her apologies, but her family was represented at the occasion by Hon Makongoro Nyerere, who is an elected Member of EALA.
First to take the podium was Mama Miria Obote who was emphatic that the EAC must re-energise itself and strive to be a fully functioning integration bloc. The former First Lady called for prioritisation of economic investment projects including oil refineries, the Standard Gauge Railway (SGR), agricultural research, food security and climate change.
She also called for creation of employment opportunities especially for the youth in the region.
“This can be achieved through joint or common East African Community investments such as the ongoing projects between Uganda and Tanzania for the proposed pipeline, Uganda, Rwanda, Tanzania and Kenya for the Standard Gauge Railway; Kenya, Ethiopia and the new South Sudan for the Lamu Port. The clear call should be an intensification of efforts across various fields to make our region more integrated”, Mama Obote said. She further called for the region to move faster to have an integrated syllabus and curriculum to stabilise the labour market within the EAC.
“For instance, a majority of Ugandans have never learnt proper Swahili. We are now learning proper Swahili in schools and in the public engagement. This is the best way towards integration,” Mama Obote said.
Mama Miria Obote was full of praise for the EALA for recognising the contribution of the founding families.
“We are very grateful for EAC and EALA for recognising the contribution of our founding Fathers, Comrade Mwalimu Julius Nyerere, Mzee Jomo Kenyatta & Comrade Dr. Apolo Milton Obote and we are also thankful to the Almighty God for having kept us alive as former First Ladies of the Independent East African Community, Mama Miria Nyerere, Mama Ngina Kenyatta and I”, Mama Obote said.
She further appreciated the Governments of Tanzania and Kenya and their people who, as the original Members of the East African Community, understood the social-political challenges of Uganda.
“They welcomed, sheltered and catered for our people as political refugees. This spirit of togetherness was extended to Rwanda, Burundi, the Democratic Republic of Congo and the new South Sudan. Not only for receiving and hosting refugees but also for walking the extra mile and facilitating peace talks, for example,” Mama Obote said.
Mama Ngina Kenyatta informed the Sitting that EAC’s founding fathers had ‘walked and worked tirelessly’ in anticipation of unity of the region.
“In 1967, all three of us were witness to the establishment of a Community that spoke to that shared sentiment. The East African Community was built on the understanding that our nations and our peoples were stronger together. I request you to keep the hope of the founding fathers alive and to ensure that unity in the region is achieved,’ Mama Ngina said.
“It is a credit to your hard work and persistence—and the hard work and persistence of your respective Governments—that today, that Community is more vibrant and active than ever”, the former Kenya First Lady added.
She informed the August House that the region was on the verge of realizing the dream of integration, and challenged EALA and the current EAC to strive to ensure disunity and mistrust was removed in a bid to strengthen integration.
Hon Miria Obote was accompanied by her son, Hon James Akena while Mama Ngina Kenyatta’s entourage consisted of her family members including Mrs Wambui, Kristina Pratt, Selina Renee Pratt, Members of the Parliament of Kenya, women leaders from Central Kenya and representatives of the Mount Kenya University.
Welcoming the founding First Ladies of Independence, Speaker of EALA, Rt. Hon Daniel Fred Kidega, lauded them for their contribution to the integration process.
“We are happy that you still show leadership in your own rights and continue to be involved in numerous humanitarian causes throughout the EAC region much akin to your active and prolific years when you worked for political and social justice and advocated for a wide range of human rights issues,”the Speaker said.
“Today, we celebrate you. You are walking encyclopedias in your own rights and repositories of information, who despite ageing gracefully, still credit, follow developments of this great region, and are supportive of the EAC unto this day. Late last year for example, Mama Ngina Kenyatta met with the EALA Kenya Chapter in Gatundu, Kenya, while in August 2014, a group of EALA Women Members paid a courtesy call on Mama Maria Nyerere in Dar Es Salaam. Mama Obote on her part, is still involved in the political spheres in Uganda and continues to follow developments at the EAC closely from Uganda House in Kampala,” the Speaker added.
The Speaker remarked that the integration process was on course and that it was stronger.
“Indeed, in retrospect, the collapse of the Community in 1977 was a sad and catastrophic affair, a great loss in opportunities and setback for the region. But today, I stand here convinced that the steps we have taken as a Community since its re-establishment are fundamentally underpinned on the Treaty for the Establishment of the EAC and we are on course for full integration of the region,” Rt Hon Kidega said.
EALA, at the 5th Meeting of the 4th Session on March 16th, 2016, passed a Resolution moved by Hon Mumbi Ngugi, recognizing the role the former First Ladies continue to play in galvanizing East Africa in the integration process and in the service of East Africans as ‘informal institutional memory’.