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EALA passes bill strengthening customs union / House further passes Bill enabling regional anthem resonate in the Partner States

By East African Community (EAC)
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ARUSHA, Tanzania, April 19, 2012/African Press Organization (APO)/ -- EALA has today debated and passed the Customs Management Act (Amendment) Bill, 2011 and the Community Emblems Act (Amendment) Bill 2012.

The Customs Management Act (Amendment) Bill 2011,sailed through after intense debate. The Bill which modifies the initial Customs Management Act 2004 has with it a new section providing for the prevention and suppression of money laundering, drugs and arms trafficking and infringement of intellectual property rights.

According to the Chairperson of the Council of Ministers, Hon Musa Sirma, the Bill hopes to fill a lacuna left out by the original Bill and proposes joint engagement in fighting transnational crimes.

During debate, Hon Dora Byamukama noted that all Partner States had appended their signatures to the international conventions against human trafficking and transnational organized crimes and the Assembly was therefore duty bound to pass the new Bill.

The debate benefitted from a prior report of the Committee on Communications, Trade and Investment on the consideration of the proposed amendments to the Bill presented yesterday by Hon Valerie Nyirahabineza. The report inter alia calls for the formation of a regional customs body to fully implement the Customs Management Act.

In response, Kenya's Assistant Minister for EAC, Hon Peter Munya on behalf of the EAC Council of Ministers, noted that the establishment of a single Customs Authority was well underway.

'It is on the agenda during the forthcoming Summit of the EAC Heads of State and we do expect that the Summit shall next week consider the roadmap and pronounce itself on the matter' Hon Munya remarked.

At the Bill Committee Stage, Members went through the Bill clause by clause generating 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.

The section of the proposed amendment on terrorism was however expunged from the Bill after Members supported the proposal brought to the House by Hon Dan Wandera Ogalo to do so.

Also passed by the Assembly today is the Community Emblems Act (Amendment) Bill 2012. With it, the region shall now institute the EAC anthem as part of the emblems of the Community.. The anthem currently in Swahili shall be used in all future official Community functions. The Bill provides for the translation of the anthem in English to be made available. The EAC anthem was approved by the Summit of the Heads of State on December 3, 2010.

The Community Emblems Act (Amendment) 2012 further provides for preservation of the identity of the Community, emblems and statutory protection of the Community flag and seals. At the same time, with the passing and assent of the Bill, the EALA and EACJ Organs can officially adopt and use their logos. Both Organs have in the past used the EAC logo.

Tomorrow, three Committees; Legal Rules and Privileges Committee, Agriculture, Tourism and Natural Resources Committee and the Regional Affairs Committee shall hold their meetings while the EALA Plenary resumes on Monday afternoon to debate on the EAC HIV and AIDS Prevention Management Bill, 2012, receive reports of Committees and pose questions to the Council of Ministers.

President Mwai Kibaki officially opened the Assembly on Tuesday, April 17, 2012.