East African nations need to learn to crawl before they run

Oh dear. President Bashir is in the news again and, yet again, the news isnt positive. Not only does he have to deal with an International Criminal Court arrest warrant, global pariah status, a rebellion in the Kordofan region, Darfur, a diplomatic issue with Kenya and let’s not forget the small matter of how to deal with the newly independent South Sudan, he now is getting a bit of a pounding from members of the East African Community (EAC) as well. For you see, Sudan wants to become a member of the five-nation bloc, something that EAC founding members Uganda and Tanzania vehemently oppose. Addressing his country’s reservations, the Ugandan Minister of East African Affairs, Eriya Kategeya told the Daily Monitor, a Ugandan daily, that “we (Uganda) rejected their application after looking at several issues like their democracy, the way they treat women and their religious politics and we feel they don’t qualify at all”.

Well, I don’t really want to get into all that because, truth be told, it’s unwise to throw stones when you yourself live in a glass house. Personalizing the EAC application process isnt the wisest thing because and I might be wrong so correct me if I’m wrong, there is a framework that EAC members agreed upon years ago. This framework is the one that Rwanda and Burundi followed to become the newest members of the regional bloc. So, I have to agree with the stance of the Rwandan, Burundian and Kenyan governments that Sudan’s candidature must follow earlier agreed-upon protocols. So, if Sudan is to gain or be denied EAC membership, let it be through the EAC process and not through media pronouncements. Doing so is undermining what the EAC is all about, collective decision-making.  But I want to talk about a more fundamental issue; why do we want to expand the EAC in the first place?

I know that expanding the EAC is the flavor of the month for some, but I’m begging our regional leaders to slow it down. Don’t call me insular, naïve or an enemy of African integration because I am not. However, I do believe that you must consolidate what you have before you attempt to take on more things. And let’s look at what a small EAC hasn’t accomplished yet.

Have you heard of the East African passport? I have and I’m sure a lot of you have as well. How many of you have actually ever seen one in use? I haven’t and I’m pretty sure that many of you haven’t either. Especially because it’s only issued by Uganda, Kenya and Tanzania, not Rwanda or Burundi. It can only be used in the EAC and nowhere else. And this is despite the fact that it was launched 1, April 1999. More than a decade later, it’s as dead as a Dodo. Maybe we should be putting in more effort in this, rather than admitting more nations.

What about the East African Monetary Union? I’m still waiting for the East African Shilling but I’m barely hearing any news on that front. And truth be told, seeing just how panicked Europeans are because of the issues within the Euro zone, I’m wondering whether a single currency is a good idea. What about the plans for the East African Federation? I barely hear a peep about it and I’m wondering whether it will see the light of day either. What about the proposed single East African tourist visa? It would boost all of our economies but even this uncomplicated issue hasn’t been resolved.

I think that the EAC has a lot of its plate right now and, truth be told, its finding it difficult to finish the initial portion it gave itself. I think that our leaders should concentrate on fulfilling the goals of intergration before they attempt to add more nations into the ‘family’. I’m not against the ascension of other nations, but I have to ask, won’t it simply add to some of the deadlock that we already see?


One thought on “East African nations need to learn to crawl before they run

  1. Divya says:

    I think EAC does need to move ahead with the issues discussed. I thought it will move ahead fast coz of the initial beginning…can I ask you, when was Burundi and Rwanda let be members of the EAC?

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