The 18th Extraordinary Summit of the EAC Heads of State which had been purposely convened to discuss the ongoing novel Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic today Wednesday, 15th April, 2020 has been postponed to a later date.
The Summit had been called by Rwandan President and Chairperson of the Summit, Paul Kagame.
The meeting was to be held via Video Conferencing and was meant to discuss the regional response against COVID-19, including its fiscal, economic and social consequences on the Community.
In a letter dated 14th April, 2020 to the EAC Secretary General, Amb. Liberat Mfumukeko, Rwanda’s Minister for Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation, Vincent Biruta, said that the Extraordinary Summit had been postponed due to a request by the Republic of South Sudan.
Hon. Biruta, who is also the Chairperson of the EAC Council of Ministers, said that a new date for the Extraordinary Summit would be communicated in due course.
This is the second time in less than two months that the regional heads of state are unable to meet, at the request of South Sudan, a recent addition to the EAC bloc.
The February 29, 2020, meeting which has been rescheduled from November 30th last year, was also called off because South Sudan couldn’t attend.
Quorum for the EAC Heads of State Summit is attained when all partner states are represented, according to Rule 11 of the Rules of Procedure. This is in consonance with decision making by consensus under Article 12 of the Treaty.
As at 15th April, 2020, all Partner States had confirmed cases of coronavirus with Kenya reporting 216 cases with 9 deaths; Rwanda 134; Uganda 55; Tanzania 53 with 3 deaths; Burundi 5 and one death and South Sudan 4 cases. Rwanda, South Sudan and Uganda have not reported any deaths so far.
Meanwhile, a Joint Ministerial Meeting of the Ministers Responsible for Health and Ministers Responsible for EAC Affairs on the COVID-19 Pandemic Preparedness and Response held on 25th March, 2020 resolved, among other things, directed all Partner States to continue implementing mandatory quarantine for 14 days for all travellers to the region, and avoid imported cases by implementing strict screening procedures at all border points.
The Ministers further resolved to maintain suspension of EAC regional face-to-face meetings and urged EAC Organs and Institutions to utilise Modern Technology such as video-conferences, Webinars and Skype Calls for holding such meetings until such a time when the situation has been contained.
The meeting directed all Partner States to implement 100% exit and entry screenings by applying the multilayer mechanism to avoid some loopholes, such as transit Passengers.
The Ministers also resolved to minimize cross border movement of people while facilitating free movements of Goods and Services in the EAC region. This was to ensure that trade continues unhindered throughout the region.