What you need to know:
- Kenyatta, Obote and Nyerere parted in a very acrimonious atmosphere in 1977 and the EAC only became alive again when they left the scene
As the new chairman of the East African Community (EAC), President Kenyatta now has the best opportunity to pump life into an organisation that has, since the 1970s, failed to be coherent and serious about most issues that member states need to address. The EAC that was envisaged by East Africa’s founding fathers — Presidents Jomo Kenyatta, Julius Nyerere and Milton Obote — has never had a firm grounding.
Kenyatta, Obote and Nyerere parted in a very acrimonious atmosphere in 1977 and the EAC only became alive again when they left the scene. It has grown to include Rwanda, Burundi and South Sudan. But it’s still the same suspicions that led the collapse of the initial EAC that haunt the union. The idea of a common currency and removal of trade tariffs, among others, have been contentious.
Tanzania under President John Magufuli is still sitting on the fence when it comes to concessions. Burundi under Pierre Nkurunziza, who died last June, had no time for meetings, leave alone meeting its obligations in paying dues which are meant to run the secretariat.
Kenya has a lot to gain from a well-oiled and working EAC. President Kenyatta should use his diplomatic charisma and negotiating power to ensure the community comes back to life. Just like Ecowas in West Africa, EAC should have a common purpose economically and politically and mutual trust. That will propel the region into becoming an economic giant in the era of regional trading blocs.
The events that have taken place in Uganda and Tanzania during the recent presidential elections are also a cause for concern. Autocracy is slowly creeping back into a region that has sworn to embrace democracy.
For East Africa to grow economically, socially and politically, it requires a credible leadership.
President Kenyatta should ensure that the region remains united and move towards a common goal that will translate into that economic federation that we all crave.
He should ensure that the suspicion that put roadblocks on the region becoming a single trading bloc with a common currency are removed if we want to reach the level of other regional associations in Africa.
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Our political leaders in Africa are very insincere.
President Magufuli told the citizens that there was no Covid-19 in Tanzania last year because there was a presidential election and his mind was only focused on being re-elected. What he forgot, however, is that you cannot live a lie or even sustain it.
There are levels that hypocrisy and Machiavellian braggadocio comes a cropper.
David M. Kigo, Nairobi