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By Godfrey Olukya 13-2-2013

The first-ever East African community ( EAC) Arts and Culture Festival has officially opened in Kigali, Rwanda.

East African community is made up of Tanzania, Kenya, Uganda, Rwanda and Burundi. South Sudan applied to join and her application is being considered.

Rwanda’s Minister for Sports and Culture Hon. Protais Mitali represented His Excellency President Paul Kagame as the Guest of Honor and presided over the opening ceremony at a packed Petit Stade.

Performances from various artists drawn from the Partner States added vibrancy to what was a very colourful event that began in the afternoon and run into late Tuesday evening.

The Festival, codenamed Jamafest, runs until Saturday 16 February 2013 and features hundreds of performers from all the five EAC Partner States. The Festival theme is Fostering the East African Community Integration through Cultural Industries.

Hon. Protais Mitali opened Jamafest by observing that the Partner States had gathered in Kigali ‘to celebrate and acknowledge the great importance of our cultural identity while appreciating the significance of coming together to
interact and share experiences meant to foster social cohesion and unity among our people.’

‘In cultural expressions such as music, dance, drama, art and crafts, people share cultural values and are able to feel oneness as well as the cohesion that exists among them as one people with a common destiny, he added.

He also highlighted the economic value of the culture industry, pointing out that in both the developed and developing countries, export of creative goods and services amounted to USD 592 billion in 2008 compared to USD 267 billion in 2002 which meant an annual growth rate of 14% over a period of six years.

Against this background, he called on the region to harness its abundance of creative talents and rich cultural assets to promote economic growth, job creation and social inclusion.

The Guest of Honor urged the Council of Ministers allocate more resources to the culture and sports sectors as they champion those activities that bring the common citizens together, and to embark on initiatives aimed at repositioning the arts, culture and heritage sector in the region.

Speaking on behalf of the chairperson of the Council of Ministers, Ugandan State Minister for Culture Hon. Rukia Nakadama called for a special focus on enhancing skills and competence of cultural practitioners and stakeholders
involved in the creation, production, distribution, marketing and management of cultural goods and services to fully exploit the economic potential of the regional cultural assets and creativity.

On his part, the EAC Secretary General Amb. Dr. Richard Sezibera said he looked forward to working more closely with the entertainment industry, as well as the arts and culture fraternity to advance East African integration.

‘As we integrate deeper, as we realize the benefits of integration we will continue to emphasize and strengthen our commonalities as we celebrate our diversity, ‘ Sezibera remarked.

Over the course of the week, Festival-goers will be treated to live performances, arts exhibitions, a symposium, a fashion show as well as a cultural village; the festival village of Countries where the Partner States will showcase their unique cultures.

The festival week kicked off with a carnival through Kigali on Monday. A symposium is next on the line-up on Wednesday 13 February at the Sports View Hotel.

It aims to promote regional socio-cultural integration through arts and culture by providing a platform to showcase culture as a primary driver of EAC integration, and is envisaged to be held biennially and hosted by Partner States on a rotational basis.

The Festival sponsors include MTN Rwanda; Brasseries et Limonaderies du Rwanda (BRALIRWA); Inyange Industries; United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (UNECA); TradeMark East Africa and the French Institute of
Rwanda.

Several Rwandan ministers, members of the diplomatic corp, dignitaries from the Partner States and the EAC Organs, legislators from the national parliament and the East African Legislative Assembly as well as several Kigali residents attended the grand opening ceremony.

END

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