World Bulletin / News Desk
German President Joachim Gauck on Thursday urged East African countries not to be discouraged by setbacks and criticisms in their ongoing East African Community (EAC) integration process.
"EAC partner states should borrow a leaf from the European Union's book," President Gauck told members of the EAC secretariat and the East African Legislative Assembly, the EAC's legislative arm.
"EU integration also faced conflicts and crises that were a huge test to the strength of the bloc," he said.
"We've gone through many challenges, but we stayed to be one, because we realized we have several things in common," Gauck asserted.
He said the EAC sought its own path, with member states working on their own solutions and pursuing their own agendas at their own pace.
"The most important thing during a difficult time is seeking compromises, remaining patient, and putting selfish interests aside for the sake of democratic principles and the rule of law," said Gauck.
The Arusha-based EAC is a regional, intergovernmental organization that includes Burundi, Kenya, Rwanda, Tanzania and Uganda.
President Gauck urged EAC member states – and Africa in general – to adhere to the rule of law, which, he said, was key to the people's development.
"Human rights violations must not be tolerated," he said. "And those who violate human rights must be held to account to their wrongdoing."
EAC officials, for their part, thanked Germany for supporting the regional bloc.
The EAC's current headquarters was built with German government support at a cost of more than 14 million euros.
"Germany was the first development partner to commit financial and technical support to the EAC since its nascent stage in 1996," EAC Secretary-General Richard Sezibera said.
He insisted that the EAC had grown to be a stable region, with business policies and regulations in place, including protocols for a single customs union and a common market.
Sezibera said member states had enjoyed continued economic growth of over 6 percent over the past decade.
According to the EAC's official website, the bloc boasts a combined GDP of some $84.7 billion.
Before visiting EAC headquarters, President Gauck paid a visit to the African Court on Human and Peoples' Rights, where he held brief closed-door meeting with its president, Judge Agustino Ramadhani.
"We asked the president [Gauck] to support the court's initiatives to make more – if not all – African nations sign the court's protocol and make a declaration to allow their citizens and NGOs to bring their cases before the court," said Ramadhani.
"We also asked the German government to assist with the implementation program of building the court's permanent premises," he added.
President Gauck is currently on a days-long visit to Tanzania, where he has already held talks with President Jakaya Kikwete.
He also traveled to Zanzibar – a semi-autonomous archipelago that together with the mainland forms the United Republic of Tanzania – for talks with Zanzibar President Ali Mohamed Shein.
Later today, President Gauck will visit the world-renowned Serengeti National Park, where he will witness the wildebeest migration from Serengeti to the Masai Mara National Park in neighboring Kenya.
The German leader is expected to leave Tanzania on Friday.