East Africans should be proud of the fact that the EAC is turning out to be Africa’s most vibrant regional integration project so far. We are steadily moving towards the defining moments of the integration process, which should concretize by the year 2015. While we are steadily moving forward, East Africans ought to take stock of what others did while travelling on the integration journey.
While our leaders are busy burning the midnight oil trying to figure out how to fast track the process, I think we ought to remind them that it is also feasible to bring in new members. To me such new entrants would include Ethiopia, South Sudan and DR Congo.
I think the EAC Summit should take a very serious look at such a possibility. If this argument is worth discussing, political endorsement for this process should be instituted early next year.
This means that as we consolidate and solidify we also need to expand further, gaining more strength along the way. Europe did it successfully. We should give it a serious try too.
My next question will be this; what kind of political process is necessary to allow such new initiative of bringing in these members? I think first and foremost our leaders ought to just look at the ties that bound us together in the first place and to transform such ties into concrete proposals in order to entice these potential members. When you look closely at South Sudan, Ethiopia and DR Congo we see a lot of relationships that can be called upon to fast-track the process of getting on board these candidates.
The leaders of these states are by and large revolutionaries. Prime Minister Meles Zenawi and Vice President Salva Kiir would most probably not turn down a brotherly request from President Yoweri Museveni to join an expanded EAC.
President Joseph Kabila, who has mended fences with Rwanda, would most probably give a very serious thought of joining the EAC if that request came from President Paul Kagame.
South Sudan would most probably want to succeed politically after cutting itself off from the greater Sudan and by so doing it would want to charter a completely new political course for its people.
Ethiopia would most probably want to consolidate the political gains of its revolution which Meles Zenawi started off. DR Congo through Kabila on the other hand would want to start off the next 50 years of its existence through a new beginning.
All these point to one new thing-that indeed it is politically possible to bring these states into the greater EAC.
Fred Oluoch-Ojiwah is a journalist with The New Times