The old steam train, labelled East African integration, continues to move forward while puffing and huffing at every turn. It has become impossible to open a newspaper in the region without a story on the EAC.
The other day, I opened a Tanzanian news website and there were three EAC-related stories among the top five most read. It appears news consumers are very keen on where and how the steam train will be moving, where its next stop will be and whether those in the hot engine room have enough fire power to keep it going.
We have read stories of EAC leaders meeting and seen the compulsory photo at the end of the meeting with some persons missing. At two of those occasions the photo lacked two leaders. It now appears that the number has dropped to one.
Kampala recently hosted a meeting of experts member-countries apart from Tanzania. The agenda was to draft a constitution for the East African political federation. Yes it appears the train has now moved full speed ahead and we are now talking about political federation.
My amateur legal understanding would be that a constitution would be for the federation but not for fast tracking (a term that has run its course) the political federation. But what do I know. Apart from reading that the committee is chaired by Uganda’s Internal Affairs Minister, Gen. Aronda Nyakairima, I prefer to stay with things I understand better like ‘TPF6’.
The Tusker Project Fame or TPF is a reality talent show that brings together youths from the region, with musical talents to compete for a grand prize of Kshs 5 million. The contestants are chosen from Uganda, Kenya, Tanzania, Rwanda, Burundi and South Sudan.
The sixth edition kicked off last Sunday with 15 contestants. The distribution of the contestants may be defined by the fact that the sponsor of the show has business interests in those countries. How else would we explain the inclusion of South Sudan which is yet to join the EAC?
Looking at the list of contestants, I found something strange. While Kenya has five representatives and Uganda has four, Tanzania and Rwanda have just two each. Burundi and South Sudan have one each. Now those numbers are a bit disturbing for me.
What rationale is used to allocate Burundi only one slot? Is it not Burundi that gave us musical gems like Khadija Nin and Kidum, who some Kenyans think is Kenyan?
And how does Tanzania, which is 51 per cent of East Africa’s landmass, get a mere two slots? This is a place whose urban sounds have given us Ali Kiba and then Diamond not forgetting the indefatigable Lady Jaydee.
Let us ignore the numbers for a while and focus on the content. It is good to support and nurture talent and I really commend the sponsors, East African Breweries, for what they are doing. But just in case they are reading this article, I could make a small case for EAC integration.
How about if the contestants were required to only try singing East African songs. Since we have South Sudan that is not a member of EAC we could amend the rule to include songs from the Democratic Republic of Congo. We just cannot escape the Congolese, considering their influence on music in this region.
It would be interesting if participants could be asked to name a musician they admire that is not from their country to test their knowledge on East African music. I am not sure if participants are limited on which language they can use, but I think it would be fun if they were encouraged to speak more Swahili than English.
And by the way, do the MC’s of the show always have to be a Kenyan or Ugandan? Rwanda has got some amazing MCs who fluently speak, English, Swahili, French and even Lingala. Why not give them a chance so we can all learn more about our diversity.
For integration to occur, we need more understanding of each other and while our leaders continue to meet, discuss, agree and disagree we can use the youth to drive the community forward and such shows as TPF can be great platforms. We need the train to move faster, you know.