East Africa bloc welcomes Rwanda, Burundi
President Mwai Kibaki of Kenya, Yoweri Museveni of Uganda and Jakaya Kikwete of Tanzania directed the bloc's secretariat to work with the two nations and ensure their admission takes effect on July 1 2007.
The two nations had originally applied to join the bloc - made of Kenya, Uganda and Tanzania - in 2002, but were delayed owing to what analysts described as "political instability".
"With regard to the accession of Rwanda and Burundi to the East African Community, for instance, the two countries have satisfied the necessary requirements, and we will now be formalising their participation as full members," Kibaki told a summit in the bloc's capital in Arusha, Tanzania.
"Integration means integration of resources and human beings," said Museveni, who chaired a regional initiative that brought peace to Burundi and played a key role in the end of the 1994 genocide in Rwanda.
"Human beings is (sic) the greatest resource, because they have brains, because they consume and buy," he added.
Kikwete, who oversaw the applications when he was foreign minister, described the move as historical to the East African sub-region.
"This historical decision opens a new chapter," he said.
Rwandan leader Paul Kagame said the East African Community expansion would foster "stability, development and prosperity of our sub-region," while Burundian counterpart Pierre Nkurunziza said "integration has become a choice and a necessity".
Effectively, the two nations are enjoined into the EAC Customs Union, which was signed in March last year and is designed to free up their trade and harmonise tariffs on goods entering member countries.
In addition, they will take steps to ensure they participate in a referendum on a federal constitution in September 2009, the creation of a common currency by the end of 2009 and the formal creation of the federation with a president, cabinet, parliament and supreme court by January 2010.
The EAC was originally established in 1967, but collapsed a decade later amid deteriorating relationships and diverging economic philosophies of member states. The relative economic strength of Kenya also eroded the viability of the union.
It was officially relaunched in 2000 as leaders of the three countries embraced the idea of creating an European Union-style common market for their 90 million citizens to strengthen their economic and political clout.
With the new members, the bloc's population increases from 90 million to around 115 million people. Sapa-AFP
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