Uhuru tipped to take over as EAC chair

A planned East African Community summit in Kampala, due next weekend, hangs in the balance after Rwanda reportedly said it is “not interested” in taking up the rotational chair of the regional bloc.

Rwanda’s Foreign Affairs minister, Louise Mushikiwabo, confirmed late on Friday that a crowded domestic schedule prompted discussions to have another country hold the rotational chair.

President Paul Kagame was due to assume the community’s chairmanship during the heads of state summit in Kampala, due next Saturday.

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“Yes, there have been consultations to skip Rwanda; the coming year is a busy time for Rwanda, with multiple activities related to the commemoration of the 20th anniversary of the genocide and 20 years of liberation,” said Ms Mushikiwabo, also the government spokesperson.

“The matter will be decided upon by the heads of state during their [November 30] summit.”

Sources said Rwanda’s officials in the ministry responsible for the community affairs communicated the surprise decision, hours to the start of preliminary meetings for the summit, throwing organisers off-balance.

However, Mr Manoah Esipisu, Kenya’s State House spokesperson, said he was not aware of the development.

Rwanda’s decision reportedly followed a quiet, high-level understanding between the region’s “coalition of the willing” countries – Uganda, Kenya and Rwanda – whose presidents over the past year held three back-to-back summits on, among other things, infrastructure and regional integration issues.

The leaders reportedly agreed that Kigali forfeits its turn this year in favour of Kenya to enable newcomer President Uhuru Kenyatta as a timely shot in his arm during the ongoing political and diplomatic lobbying for the deferral of his International Criminal Court trial.

Regional leaders are gambling that giving Mr Kenyatta chair of a group of five countries, with more than 134 million people, would politically insulate him against the West “that would not want to plunge a region into chaos”.

That notwithstanding, secretary-general Richard Sezibera on Friday circulated to member countries a revised summit programme still indicating that President Paul Kagame would take over EAC chairmanship.

Other sources suggested that Rwanda was reluctant to head the bloc at the height of its diplomatic spat with Tanzania, blamed for the latter’s apparent isolation by the neighbours.

Besides underlining the wedge between Kigali and Dar es Salaam, the development would also complicate admission of new applicants.-nation

Presidents Yoweri Museveni [left],Uhuru Kenyatta, and Paul Kagame after commissioning of berth 19 within the port of Mombasa in this picture taken on 28 August 2013. PHOTO|LABAN WALLOGA

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