What you need to know:
- We can define a ‘group selfie’ as a self-taken picture through the art of arms extension, often to point of pain, with heads brought together, superimposed on a chosen background with the intention of instigating envy on the viewer.
Selfies have become the in-thing. Nice selfies with nice people and nice backgrounds get thousands of likes.
A selfie with a celebrity, whether a musician, soccer player, president or pope, in the right place at the right time, goes viral.
We can define a ‘group selfie’ as a self-taken picture through the art of arms extension, often to point of pain, with heads brought together, superimposed on a chosen background with the intention of instigating envy on the viewer.
With a selfie we say “I was here, and I wasn't alone!”
In these times of division, the selfie philosophy must go political: We are here, we are together, we like the background, we are not alone!
TO THE POINT OF PAIN
East Africa needs a selfie. And it must be the presidents’ selfie. In it, presidents need to extend their arms, even to the point of pain, to get the right angle and background. All of them must be in the picture, and one of them must take it.
Extending the arms means going beyond one’s ordinary duty to get the right perspective. East Africa’s pressing challenges: Peace and stability in South Sudan, terrorism and growing religious extremism, devolution and its financial burdens and discontents in Kenya, Museveni’s progressive isolationism, Tanzania’s constitution making challenges and petty envies, Rwanda’s transitional justice model.
There are also East Africa’s amazing possibilities: a growing youthful population, infrastructure build-outs, increased interest from new and old developmental partners and greatly optimistic and hardworking people.
The right background for the picture is set by its lights and shadows. A bad selfie is the one where the light is behind, so faces can’t be seen. Here we need to see faces, so the light must shine from the front.
The light comes, first of all, from laws that lower those unnecessary barriers preventing cooperation, then comes the political will to cooperate, to be together in a selfie, and finally by being clever enough to allow the market forces drive the community’s industrial growth.
MUSEVENI’S THIRD TERM
Shadows in the background are brought about by a deformed patriotism, which is better defined as ‘nationalistic mentality’. Shadows are necessary, patriotism is essential, but we should reject a ‘nationalistic mentality’ which is the result of some sort of fanatic deformation of patriotism. Shadows are good but they are determined by a light driven process, not the other way around.
According to Kimotho, there still are significant political differences within East Africa. Museveni’s success in obtaining his third-term amendment raised doubts in many heads. The single-party dominance in the Tanzanian and Ugandan parliaments is unattractive to Kenyans, while Kenya's ethnic-politics is not apparent in Tanzania.
Rwanda has a distinctive political culture with a political elite committed to building a developmental state. Some are worried about the model’s sustainability and its democratic space. Last but not least, there is Burundi’s poverty and its low literacy rates.
Other problems involve states being reluctant to relinquish involvement in other regional groups, such as Tanzania's withdrawal from COMESA but continued involvement within the SADC bloc for the Economic Partnership Agreement negotiations with the European Union.
Many Tanzanians are also concerned, because creating a common market means removing obstacles to the free movement of both labour and capital. Free movement of labour may be perceived as highly desirable in Uganda and Kenya, and have important developmental benefits in Tanzania. However there is widespread resistance to the idea of ceding land rights in Tanzania to foreigners, including Kenyans and Ugandans.
THE BACKGROUND LIGHT
While generally the member nations are largely in favour of the East African Federation, informal polls indicate that 80 per cent of Tanzanians have an unfavourable view. This is not a small problem considering that Tanzania has more land than all the other EAC nations combined.
The faces of the five East African presidents: Kenyatta, Kikwete, Kagame, Kaguta and Nkurunziza should be in the selfie. And even Kiir should be allowed in, if there is space. Their smiles should reflect the smiles of their people, full of hope. Their arms are the labour of their sweat.
This selfie’s background light comes from the good laws that bring these nations together…and the shadows are the positive, patriotic pride of each country, which merges in harmony with the light of being together.
When Konrad Adenauer, Jean Monnet, Robert Schuman and Alcide de Gasperi came together to form the European Community they had to do away with incredible shadows in the background, the shadows of death: Two devastating wars that had decimated Europe. Their humility led them into an amazing historical selfie, and their courage overpowered opposition, resentment and hatred.
They were magnanimous leaders. They were aware that those background differences must stay behind, in the background, and give their faces to the selfie for the sake of their people, their survival, and their future.
Ideas are just starting to take shape when the limit of words is over. I'll allow you, dear reader, to reach your own conclusion.
We pray that our leaders: Kenyatta, Kikwete, Kagame, Kaguta, Nkurunzizaare plus Kiir, who has been waiting for admission into the EAC since 2011, may come together in a selfie and put their differences where they should be, in the background.
After all, the EAC is a common market for the common good of the common citizen. Like the Fathers of EU, the EAC presidents need to align all their policies, and let this selfie go viral.