Uganda President Yoweri Museveni has said he stopped drinking soft drinks after he was introduced to Kenyan Milk.
He told members of the East Africa Legislative Assembly that free movement of goods in East Africa region will strengthen integration.
“In 1965, Kenyans liberated me from Coca-Cola. The beverage was the only decent drink one would find then. One day, I came across packed milk, KCC, from Kenya. I stopped drinking Coca-Cola but also began contributing to the prosperity of Kenyan farmers by consuming their milk,” Museveni said.
Museveni who is also the Chairperson of Summit of EAC Heads of State wants the EAC region to go full throttle and unite the markets for the prosperity of the people.
“We need a situation where all producers in the Partner States are able to freely sell their produce,” the Ugandan leader said.
The President made the remarks when he addressed the 2nd Sitting of the 1st Session of the 4th Assembly in Kampala, Uganda on Tuesday.
Museveni said the region stood to gain much more as a unified front.
“This integration is not about the leaders but the people who produce wealth. Why do we talk about hunger while in Uganda for example, we have a huge crop of maize about five million tonnes capable of sufficiently meeting our needs? he wondered.
He remarked the populace in the EAC region were severally either linked by either culture, language or history.
The President, therefore, maintained that socio-economic development was very key in the integration dispensation.
President Museveni also cited strategic security as key to integration.
“Africans need to solve their own problems – in this world, you cannot survive if you are weak – and this is of our own making. Why can’t we make Africa strong”, President Museveni stated and called for the continent to speak with one voice.
President Museveni also called for the region to effect better use of the existing common natural resources for its own prosperity citing Lake Victoria as a case in point.
“This among other resources should be managed on an East African basis and we have the ability to manage the resources collectively – so such may save us in future for East Africa’s destiny,” he added.
The President hailed the EAC forefathers for their vision in uniting the region way back in the 1960s and said the collapse of the envisaged Union led to some of the present-day challenges and catastrophic events.
“In Uganda for example, we could not have had the Idi Amin challenge, had we succeeded in forming a unified government. The genocide in Rwanda for example, could also not have happened if there was a unified an East African Community union,” remarked Museveni.
The President congratulated the Speaker of EALA, Martin Ngoga for his election and said he was content the principle of rotation had been maintained.
“ I recall already Kenya, Uganda and Tanzania had already benefited from the Speakership while Burundi has the position of the Secretary-General in the EAC,” he added.
The President maintained that the oversight role of EALA was key and assured the Speaker of his support.
Speaker Ngoga noted that the Sitting was taking place at an irreversible time in the regional integration process.
He said EALA was keen to finalise work started by the predecessors on operationalization of the finance and administration of the Assembly, which he said, would help to improve efficiency as it executes its mandate.
The Speaker maintained that the region needed to remain strong and resilient on the continent and said the implementation of the pillars of integration would go a long way in realizing the same.
The EALA Speaker maintained the region stood proud of the gains realised under the Customs Union and the Common Market and cited the impending Monetary Union as the logical culmination of the integration efforts as it seeks to harmonise fiscal policies leading to a single currency unit.
He further called for the swift address of challenges the region was facing.
“To this effect, we should continue to address challenges in order to secure EAC’s future for posterity. Some of the areas include stamping out the NTBs and the need to enhance free movement of goods, labour and services. We need to venture into new areas of integration and consolidate those we have agreed upon. We have to pay special attention to areas that have the impact on our young people notably one education area and equal fees”, he said.