On Friday the Society for the International Development (SID) released the much anticipated report; ‘State of East Africa 2013: The Future of Inequality In the EAC.’ As soon as the report was out some information junkies got down to tweeting some of the highlights of the report.
I downloaded the report and I am still combing through all of its 120 pages where it ‘seeks to understand just how inclusive and equitable the current regional integration process and outcomes are’ according to the people at SID.
The report generally zeroes in on the ‘One people, One destiny’ slogan and shreds it to pieces by exposing the inequalities that exist in the integration process rendering it a doubtful vehicle to a unified destiny especially from the perspective of the people who make up East Africa.
That bit got me into thinking about what it would take to have East Africans united and breathing at the same pace more like the proverbial termites. Take for example the passion we have for football. We have a few local clubs we support passionately and when our nations are on the pitch the fever takes on a notch higher. CECAFA is around the corner and you will see what I mean.
On Saturday as Arsenal FC played against Southampton, many Kenyans on Twitter joked that the game was Arsenal vs Victor Wanyama. Kenyans were therefore torn between supporting their usual teams like Arsenal while one of their own was featuring for a team that commands no following in Kenya. I call this the instability of our support.
In East Africa, the English Premier League is one of the most followed sports competitions. Arsenal FC, Manchester United, Chelsea FC and Liverpool FC seem to have the biggest number of fans. Some even have local fans’ clubs that even hold more regular elections than some political parties!
Next year Brazil will host the FIFA World Cup and our support will be needed here as well. We already know the list of the 32 countries that will grace football’s biggest stage. Looking at that list especially the section of African teams gives you that feeling one gets when he checks for his end of year results on the school notice board and finds their name missing.
Africa will be represented by Algeria, Nigeria, Ivory Coast, Cameroon, and Ghana. All the five countries have ever been to the World Cup before. In fact Nigeria will be featuring for the fifth time. Cameroon and Ghana are known for having made it to the quarter finals of the tournament.
The first World Cup that I managed to follow was the 1990 edition where I supported Cameroon that introduced the world to the exuberant African celebrations. The last World Cup had me supporting Ghana. On other occasions it was either Nigeria or Senegal.
My story is not so different from most East Africans. Just like we spend our weekends supporting Arsenal and Manchester, on the world stage we find ourselves ‘lending’ our support to the likes of Nigeria, Ghana, Senegal or Cameroon.
When shall we ever get the chance to scream and lose our voices for one of our own – Uganda, Kenya, Tanzania, Rwanda or Burundi as they play in the World Cup? The closest we have come to that is during the Olympics when the Kenyans do their thing in the long races. When it comes to football, East Africa has little to show besides individual brilliance.
Just imagine for a moment that there was an East African country playing at the world cup and winning some games. Imagine that moment when all East Africans will cheer for that country and even buy replica jerseys. Think about the mood in the bar when drunken patrons start pretending that they know the players or about the country that is playing.
Such a scenario would have East Africans from Arua to Cibitoke or Bamamoyo to Turkana all cheering and singing the same song. It would mean that for once we get to feel and understand the meaning of one people, one destiny.
If we are serious about uniting East Africans then an appearance at the World Cup stage would offer so much mileage. However we need to do more than dreaming and start planning for such a scenario. May be our leaders should add football stadia to those documents that talk about roads and railways. Then my dream would become a reality.