MPs move to rescue poorly funded, understaffed EAC peace and securitydepartment

MPs move to rescue poorly funded, understaffed EAC peace and security department
MPs move to rescue poorly funded, understaffed EAC peace and security department

Africa-Press – Rwanda. A source at the East African Community headquarters in Arusha, Tanzania, on Tuesday, November 23, told The New Times that the six-member bloc’s vital peace and security department only has five professional members of staff.

Three work in conflict prevention management and resolution (CPMR) and early warning while two are under the mainstream peace and security docket, which deals with strategic security issues such as transnational and cross border crime, regional coordination and cooperation; capacity building and planning for the sector.

“Then there is one professional staff at the EAC Liaison office to the AU, and one police liaison officer whose term expired almost two years ago and up to now hasn’t yet been replaced,” the source said, about two hours after regional lawmakers debated a parliamentary committee report highlighting challenges of low funds, understaffing and dependence on donor funds.

Earlier, members of the East African Legislative Assembly expressed shock as MP Fatuma Ndangiza, Chairperson of EALA’s Committee on Regional Affairs and Conflict Resolution, pointed out operational and human resource challenges in the department.

These challenges, in addition to funding constraints, were unearthed as her Committee conducted an oversight activity to assess the implementation of the bloc’s peace and security strategy.

Ndangiza told the Assembly that the Committee was informed that one of the key challenges faced by the department relate to the human resources function.

With its critical mandate, she said, the entire department is understaffed with few staff members that handle huge mandate of peace and security docket.

“The staff are too thin on the ground and overstretched. For the mandate of this department to be achieved, the staffing challenges need to be addressed. Noteworthy is the fact that critical programs and projects geared towards Peace and Security largely depend on donor funding,” Ndangiza added.

“Mindful of the importance and sensitive nature of the Peace and Security sector, the Committee notes that Partner States are not providing adequate funding to the Peace and Security programs. This critical sector that guarantees the social, political and economic development of the EAC is relegated to donors funding.”

The Committee recommended to the Assembly to urge the Council of Ministers – the policy-making organ of the bloc which comprises Ministers in charge of EAC affairs from each of the six countries – to explore avenues of increasing the funding of the peace and security department.

The Peace and Security department is heavily reliant on development partners for funding of its governance, Peace and Security programme under which the conflict prevention work is undertaken, the Committee report states.

Its major funders, Ndangiza noted, include the German Cooperation Agency (GIZ); the African Union (AU), and the European Union (AU). MP Odinga Oburu (Kenya) indicated that donor funds always come with strings attached and whenever donor interests are achieved funding can be cut. He added: “Security is a permanent issue and we cannot leave it in the hands of foreigners.”

In the morning, former Rwandan Premier, MP Pierre Celestin Rwigema, weighed in noting that when lawmakers were debating the issue, members of the Council were not present. “It is very disappointing,” he said, also stressing three things – lack of political will, weak infrastructure and inadequate funding, he thinks caused the current situation.

Rwigema said: “Donors will orient us in domains that don’t really address what we want.” The Committee was informed that the Council of Ministers allocated an initial seed fund of $500, 000 to facilitate the peace and security department and further directed that the funding should grow incrementally.

“The zero per cent annual increase is an arbitrary figure not based on the level and rate at which EAC activities are increasing as integration deepens,” Ndangiza said.

Currently, according to the source, $500,000 has helped to sustain the staffing component but the Partner States funding to Peace and Security program activities remains too low, fluctuating between $100,000 and $130,000 annually due to zero increase.

More than 85 per cent of the budget of Peace and Security is externally funded, she noted, which raises a lot of concern regarding the sustainability and ownership of this key sector.

“Prior to the allocation of the seed fund, the department was fully funded by donors including the wage bill for the staff. But despite, the Council directive, it has not been implemented.”

Whereas the Committee appreciates funding from development partners, it is “concerned that over depending on donor funds is unpredictable and not sustainable in case of donor withdrawal.”

“There is need to explore other alternative funding options including benchmarking from AU experience to finance the EAC peace fund. Donor support should complement community efforts.”

On behalf of the Council, Burundi’s Minister for East African Community Affairs, Amb Ezechiel Nibigira, assured the Assembly that effort will be made to right wrongs.

“We will join hands to work on this peace and security issue. We know very well that peace and security are the foundations of each country’s development,” Nibigira said.

He told lawmakers that he had taken note of their recommendations and is “optimistic that the Council will deeply analyse,” them intent on ensuring that things are rectified.

“We will do everything to sit and deal with the report.”

MP Oda Gasinzigwa, from Rwanda, earlier requested that genocide prevention be given serious consideration in the regional peace and security strategy.

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