ECCAS at 38: Passing and taking up the baton of regional integration

The construction of the community of destiny passes by the emergence and the formatting of a community citizenship which does not go without strong moments of awareness. The day of regional integration is given to us to revive, stimulate and develop this awareness of our belonging and community destiny within the Community that forms the eleven Member States of ECCAS.

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There are moments of great weight in the history and life of every human community. These moments, which mobilise and challenge both our emotions and our intelligence, often become the crucible for the production of meaning. At the time when the ECCAS Commission is celebrating its 38th anniversary, I have the impression of living one of these moments generating a new historical content and indicators of a new direction for all. 

Making integration possible means achieving verifiable results in the six priority areas or around the pillars of regional integration in Central Africa. #ECCAS

The revised Treaty adopted by our Member States on 19 December 2019 in Libreville, Republic of Gabon, is driven by a great ambition, that of carrying out the regional integration process at the same time as that of building a community of destiny. A community of destiny, as you can imagine, is one in which the members, in our case the States and their people, feeling bound by the determinations of a shared space and history that they have shaped together, driven by the will to live together while continuing to look always in the same direction, deciding to change history together through an adventure of transformation of their environment by giving it a new meaning. Such a community is very often forged in a voluntary way. Hence the place and importance of symbols.

Among these symbols, we can mention, the anthem, the motto, the flag and the traditions which are historical and existential markers with a strong symbolic charge. The motto and the anthem, which were the focus of one of our activities to celebrate Regional Integration Day, mobilised us just a few days ago. In general, symbols in a community of destiny are called upon to function as effective tools to remind us of where we belong. The traditions in which our heroes are found are also true symbols of our common identity, and here of our community identity.  

Within the framework of the Meetings of Remembrance that we are going to organise until the 40th anniversary of our regional organisation, we also had the honour and the great privilege to welcome one of these heroes who is part of the symbolic arsenal of our common membership to a community. I mentioned Professor Vincent de Paul Lunda-Bululu, the very first Secretary General of ECCAS. Former Prime Minister of the former Zaire, the current Democratic Republic of Congo, one of those who opened the road and showed us the way to serve a community ambition, a pioneer in the construction of regional integration in Central Africa. 

The construction of the community of destiny passes by the emergence and the formatting of a community citizenship which does not go without strong moments of awareness. The day of regional integration is given to us to revive, stimulate and develop this awareness of our belonging and community destiny within the Community that forms the eleven Member States of ECCAS. This year, the theme chosen is “ECCAS at the crossroads: Passing and taking up the baton of regional integration”. The choice of this theme led us to hold a round table at the end of October 2021, in Libreville, on the occasion of the commemoration of the 38th anniversary of ECCAS, with, in honour, the very first Secretary General of ECCAS, Prime Minister Lunda-Bululu. His presence at the round table not only allowed us to reconcile ourselves with our history, but also and above all to constitute in itself an act of handing over the torch of the construction of the regional integration of Central Africa. The theme of our celebration, “ECCAS at the crossroads: Passing on and taking up the baton of regional integration” must give rise to a particular appropriation in the context also of the end of the transition period imposed by Article 114 of the revised Treaty of ECCAS.

Together, let us take up the baton of regional integration from our elders in order to bring their struggle to a successful conclusion. #ECCAS

We all suspect that the baton that has been passed must be taken up. But who will take it up? It is the Commission as a whole, the Commissioners and the staff, some of whom have taken an oath to express the will of all to take over the task of building regional integration. 

Making integration possible means achieving verifiable results in the six priority areas or around the pillars of regional integration in Central Africa. As you are well aware, results are not just good intentions or mere wishes, but concrete realities. In these concrete realities, we must integrate everything that will transform our space and environment, our systems and the lives of our States and our peoples. In short, it will be a question for all of us to produce dividends from regional integration, which is the only way to win the support of our States and our peoples for our daily efforts to make regional integration a reality.

This was the intention of our Member States when they included in the new Treaty, in Articles 16(e) and 21(8), the principle of evaluating the performance of the institutions and the staff attached to them. The same desire to comply with the provisions of the revised Treaty has led us to implement staff appraisals within the Commission as of now. All staff, without exception, will be asked to sign performance agreements, and the decision to make them operational has been signed. They must all see them as a demonstration of their willingness to justify the trust that the Community has placed in them. This contract is also a moral contract with the peoples of our Community not to disappoint their hopes in the construction of regional integration.

Together, let us take up the baton of regional integration from our elders in order to bring their struggle to a successful conclusion. This is the best tribute we can pay to them today, to the founding fathers of our Community and to those who, under their leadership, like Prime Minister Lunda-Bululu, have shown us that translating their ambition into reality was worthwhile and above all worth the commitment of a lifetime.

Ambassador Gilberto Da Piedade Verissimo is the President of the Economic Community of Central African States (ECCAS).

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