By John Oyuke
East African Legislative Assembly (Eala) has passed two key legislative amendments to strengthen regional integration.
The legislators, whose five-year term ends on June 4, and currently meeting in Nairobi, debated and passed the Customs Management Act (Amendment) Bill 2011, and the Community Emblems Act (Amendment) Bill 2012 on Wednesday.
The Customs Management Act (Amendment) Bill 2011, which sailed through after intense debate modifies the initial Customs Management Act 2004. It comprises a new section providing for the prevention and suppression of money laundering, drugs and arms trafficking and infringement of intellectual property rights.
The Chairperson of the Council of Ministers, Musa Sirma, said the Bill hopes to fill a vacuum left out by the original Bill and proposes joint engagement in fighting transnational crimes in the region. The East African Legislative Assembly Plenary, which started on Monday and runs through to April 26, is also expected to pass several other Bills, including HIV/Aids and conflict resolution before its term expires.
Eala Member Dora Byamukama noted that all partner states had appended their signatures to the international conventions against human trafficking and transnational organised crimes and the Assembly was therefore duty bound to pass the new Bill.
Reacting to the new development, Assistant Minister for Kenya’s East Africa Community ministry, Peter Munya, said the establishment of a single Customs Authority was well underway.
“We do expect the forthcoming Summit of the EAC Heads of State next week shall consider the roadmap and pronounce itself on the matter,” he said.
Members went through the Bill to generate heated discussions as to whether cross-border crimes such as human trafficking were part and parcel of customs issues and if so, the correlation and complementarity with the existing laws and Protocols.