Last week I was talking with colleagues of mine about the progress made so far, where the realization of a federated East African Community is concerned. The skeptics in the group argued that it would remain a pipe dream, citing historical events that led it to collapse in the late 1970’s; the greatest of which being the Tanzania – Uganda border conflict.
Their argument focused on the recent Uganda – Kenya conflict over Migingo Island that created bad blood between the two countries, with politicians from each side exchanging verbal bombs that, if the governments of Kenya and Uganda had taken seriously, might have culminated into a scenario that would have probably made it impossible for the eventual federation of the member states.
The fact that such a scenario did not happen is a clear manifestation of the determination of East African leadership towards achieving the Federation.
It shows that they have set up a consensus-building mechanism that is aimed at solving conflicts and dispute resolution. The recent agreement to re-demarcate the Rwanda and Burundi borders showcases this arrangement.
I believe that the factor which totally cemented the whole integration process was the inclusion of Rwanda and Burundi into the community. Inclusion of these two states gave us the hope that the integration process could be sustained- it makes even more sense when one realizes that even when one member state decides to withdraw from the EAC, the other states can make up for the exiting member.
Secondly, the tremendous political will exhibited by East African leaders gives us the confidence to believe that the federation is achievable.
The summits and conventions that the leaders constantly convene prove that the huge steps are already being taken towards achieving the much desired federation.
Thirdly, we should keep in mind that this time round there is no one that can hold a fig to the buffoon that Amin was. The bombastic former president of the Republic of Uganda Idi Amin Dada, the ‘Conqueror of the British Empire’, made it impossible for the East African Community to survive.
He even had to audacity to invade Tanzania, hastening his demise. All our leaders are educated enough not to pull a stunt like Amin pulled and are conscious of how fragile the integration process is.
Last, but not least, the reason I believe that we are past the point of no return where EAC federation is because of the progress made so far.
The signing of the Common Market Protocol, the Customs Union, and the steps already taken towards achieving a unified monetary policy and the efforts create an East African standing army suggests that the EAC will not be a stillborn child.
The author is a social commentator