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Rwanda to Benefit from Joining East African Community, FM Tells VOA

Charles Murigande
Rwanda says its entry into the three-country East African Community will greatly help Rwanda and the region. Discussions of Rwanda's membership were part of a summit this week aiming to create a regional political and economic federation.

Rwanda's Minister of Foreign Affairs and Cooperation, Charles Murigande, tells VOA he is very pleased that the East African Community will soon admit his country into its bloc.

Mr. Murigande says Rwanda would be the perfect fourth member of the East African Community, which consists of Tanzania, Uganda, and Kenya.

"Two of the three countries share a border with Rwanda. If you consider our external trade, I think about 70 percent of our trade is with the East African Community. We share a lot economically, politically, so it is only fair that we be part of its community," he said.

After past attempts to create a regional bloc, the East African Community was relaunched in 2000 with the idea of creating a common market encompassing the three countries' 90 million people.

On January 1 of this year, the three countries set up common tariff rates through the East African Common Customs Union in a bid to unify and strengthen the area's economy.

At a two-day summit that concluded Monday, the presidents of Uganda, Kenya, and Tanzania mapped out a plan for the next five years to make the East African Community into what they call "a political federation."

The East African Community aims to set up a common market, currency and parliament by 2010.

Also at the summit, the presidents pledged to conclude the process of Rwanda's admission into the bloc by their next meeting in November.

Rwandan foreign minister Mr. Murigande says this is good news for his country.

"Our industries, our production sector will have a bigger market to benefit from,” he added. “We also believe that joining a bloc like the East African Community would give a strength to our voice within the international community because we would not have to fend for ourselves only."

Mr. Murigande says the bloc would also benefit from Rwanda's more than eight million people.