Participation in the East Africa Civil Society Summit

By Vivian Mwende

The Independent Medico-Legal Unit’s strategic plan is implemented with the realization of the regional trade blocs which influence legislative frameworks and protocols which affects Kenya’s development agenda. Therefore, IMLU is a member of the East African Civil Society Organizations’ Forum – Kenya chapter (EACSOF-K). EACSOF is an umbrella body for CSOs in the East African Community and the official CSO representative to the EAC through which the voice of civil society is heard and views presented in structured dialogue forums convened within and by member states and by the EAC Secretariat.

The regional office of the East Africa Civil Society Organizations Forum organized an East African Civil Society Summit in partnership with country chapters. The Summit took place between May 3rd – 5th, 2023 in Arusha, Tanzania. The theme of the Summit was “Harnessing citizens’ potential in regional integration processes”. The summit sought to re-energize the achievement of the regional integration agenda and will be attended by: over 300 CSO representatives, private sector and Government representatives, from the EAC partner states.

The Summit held thematic Panel Sessions of CSOS and Government Officials from the EAC secretariat, Parliamentarians, and Ministries to deliberate and share insights on the topics. These specialized thematic discussions developed an implementation roadmap to guide how relevant actors should address the current regional, continental and global issues including but not limited to; Enabling civic space, economic outlook and Sustainable Development, Governance and Democracy, EAC & Africa Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA), Information Technology, Health, Agriculture and Climate change and Gender & youth.

IMLU’s Lead-Treaty bodies & Criminal Justice Reforms Vivian Mwende during the EASCOF Summit in Arusha, Tanzania on May 3, 2023.

Following these sessions, the Civil Societies developed a communique that resolved to: Engage in citizen-led campaigns and sustained engagement with duty bearers at the national, regional and continental levels; Facilitate citizen participation in regional integration at the economic, social, cultural, and political, technological and other levels as a tool for enhancing social mobility towards durable peace and security; Advocate empowerment of women and youth to ably trade under the auspices of AfCFTA; Promote adequately State-funded provision of quality, affordable, accessible, gender-responsive and inclusive public services; and Enhance CSOs institutional programs to embrace digital technology, its attendant benefits and contributions towards civic engagement, service delivery and the development of commerce and small and informal cross border trade.

EACSOF finally called the EAC and Partner States to:

  • Complete the ratification and domestication of critical instruments on democratic governance such as the African Charter on Democracy, Elections and Governance (ACDEG) and the EAC Protocol on Good Governance.
  • Eliminate the undue procedural barriers to effective engagement between civil society and EAC organs and grant observer status to CSOs.  
  • Review the EAC’s existing and proposed frameworks on democratic governance to address the increasing role of technology in democratic processes such as in public participation and electoral processes.
  • Eliminate the barriers to the utilisation of civic technology as part of the wider obligation to establish an enabling environment for civil society as envisioned under Article 127 of the EAC Treaty.
  • Fully restore, regularize and commit to sufficiently resource the Secretary-General Forum and other constitutive elements of the Consultative Dialogue Framework.
  • 8. Host an annual EAC woman and youth conference to provide a platform for engagement on critical issues relating to entrepreneurship, leadership, and policy development in the region.