The East African community was first established in 1967, it was later dissolved in 1977 due to political differences and ideologies of the different heads of states then. However, the intergovernmental organization composed of six(6) countries now was re-established in 2000. This has been motivated by decades of shared goals of creating a common market for the East African countries[Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania, Rwanda, Burundi, and South Sudan].
Over years, all the leaders of East Africa have shared a passion for creating the United States of East Africa modeled just like the United States of America. This has led to the creation of The East African legislative assembly, East African Development Bank, and The East African court of justice excetra to set systems in play for the eventual integration. There is also a push towards having a single currency for the East African region to Forster for an eventual monetary and political integration.
With the little success registered, fast-tracking of the political union was first discussed in 2004 and enjoyed a consensus among the three presidents of Kenya, Tanzania, and Uganda. Hence, a high-level committee headed by Amos Wako the former Attorney general of Kenya was commissioned. This was to investigate the possibility of speeding integration so as to achieve political federation sooner than previously visualized.
However, the committee noted that “Museveni’s success in obtaining his various constitution amendments to prolong his grip on state power have raised doubts in other countries”.They also wrote that “The single-party dominance in Tanzanian and Ugandan parliaments was unattractive to Kenyans, while Kenya’s ethnic-politics remains absent in Tanzania”.The committee report also pointed out that, “Rwanda has a distinctive political culture with a political elite committed to building a developmental state”.
There have been numerous annual summits organized without discernment of the people of East Africa in the name of discussing regional matters, pushing for integration, common market, and promoting Pan Africanism. All with the core values of uniting Africa to fight neo-colonialism and capitalism supposedly. Member states have even organized joint military drills to Forster cohesion in military maneuvers and tactics in the event of a war against the region.
However, the committee report fails to put even just recommendations let alone point out that; “Summits for only leaders will never help bring a united people”. This is because the leaders are hugely disconnected from the common persons of East Africa, they also lack a sense of their plight as few discuss the issues of East Africa with grassroots Citizens.
Coupled with the summits, they should start organizing patriotism and leadership pieces of training where each member state sends in members(common citizens and youths). This is to allow them to cherish the values of a united East Africa, share their culture, learn to appreciate the available norms, morals and have mutual respect for each other. Instead of a few leaders and dignitaries meeting to discuss what befits their understanding and interests without involving the common man directly.
As always said, Community development is a holistic approach grounded in principles of empowerment, human rights, inclusion, social justice, self-determination, and collective action (Kenny, 2007). Currently, the citizens of East Africa are not even spatially connected in spite of the fact that they share common interests, concerns, or identities.
Take if each country hosts 5,000 citizens from different countries for those training. They will have an annual inculcation of the norms, values of pan-Africanism, and patriotism in 30,000 young generations. Just imagine the impact in 10 years’ time, we would have a huge sense of consciousness for I believe that individual consciousness and social consciousness can move mountains.
This would greatly empower the people and offer them a sense of inclusion in the federation. The collective action ability endowed in the persons of East Africa would be like the American dream. Just like the American foundation, which was based on a set of beliefs created during the revolutionary war. We too can inculcate a sense of belief generated and agreed upon by patriotism secretariats from all the member states.
Just like the American beliefs, many Americans agreed with them but some found that the ideology was far more acceptable in the abstract than in practice. The Americans created an idea that all people are created equal, whether European, Native American, or African American, and that these people have fundamental rights, such as liberty, freedom of speech, freedom of religion, due process of law, and freedom of assembly.
We too can create our own beliefs in direction to our plights, morals, and cultures. We need to do all this with respect and understanding of our history and with the ambition of where we intend to be in the next generation. We should be against 6 individuals(Heads of states) only meeting annually and sharing our predicament without knowing what we think of, the beliefs we the common persons share, or how much we appreciate ourselves and the diverse cultures.
In the end, we need a sense of national identity among the common population just like what the USA had by 1776. I hope 50% of the problem would be solved even before the integration is done, we can’t have a population without a common set of beliefs. It’s good that we even have an East African Anthem now which to is a sense of identity.
Despite the fact that integration in East Africa is clouded with underlying socio-cultural, socio-political, and religious-linguistic differentiation that actually needs to be addressed to ensure the durability and consolidation of the project. It’s still a possible project to achieve if we stop a few cartels from promoting their own interests.
By: Eng. Jakech Boris Rwothomio