I consume a lot of international news especially from Al Jazeera, BBC and RT (Russia Today) and I always envy some of the people I see on the set. I mean whether it is Rwanda or Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) or even Somali they always never fail to identify an expert on the country.
The character is often a white university professor based in Washington, Brussels, London or Paris. I however find it weird that we never get to refer to the likes of Prof. Mahmood Mamdani or Prof. Ali Mazrui as experts when we have them appearing on our TV stations. May be they are not white enough?
It also seems like a fad for one to be an expert on a country or region that has been plagued by conflict. You will hear or an expert on DRC, Somalia, Chad but not an expert on Botswana or Seychelles.
Can we assume that conflict is the only thing worth being an expert on when it comes to Africa or is it just proof that Africa only makes headlines when things have gone wrong with the occasional ‘Africa is rising’ story the exception that qualifies the rule.
Before I get my mind in a maze, let me return to what I had set out to write. I have been following EAC matters for quite a while although I think it would be a case of misusing words to refer to me as an expert. Let us just say I am a keen observer in case the urge to classify me is that overwhelming.
Many times when our leaders and technocrats are going on and on about the EAC project one word is always thrown around – Harmonisation. They have talked and continue to talk of harmonising taxes, education policies, aviation policies, monetary issues and so much more.
Almost anything you can think of is addressed in the angle of harmonisation. In other words we may be five different countries now but real progress is when we do things the same way, have one visa for our visitors, cross the borders using the same documents or just one passport and eventually (a big maybe there) one president.
Even where the harmony for the five has not been achieved we have seen three of them agreeing to do things the same way (as they wait for the other two to tag along) such as the proposed infrastructure plans for a rail line and pipeline. The regional media chose to baptise them as the coalition of the willing.
Any plans for a country or regional block are generally incomplete without the aspect of foreign policy. For the greater nations of our times like the US, UK, Russia, China or France, foreign policy is a very big issue with lots of resources and time dedicated to it. The people who hold the foreign policy docket are usually among the top five most common figures on the news when it comes to the above countries.
Now getting back to our region East Africa that has agreed to harmonise anything we think is better off done together, I beg to ask – do we have a harmonised foreign policy? If not, how do we expect this EAC baby to mature without a clear view of what is outside our borders?
Why is it that on DRC we cannot have a joint policy but almost end up on opposite sides on how the problems plaguing the country can be solved? How come on when it came to Somalia, Burundi and Uganda went in while Kenya only thought of going in when a few tourists were kidnapped and the rest looked on?
Now we have South Sudan and Uganda has gone in apparently to protect an elected government as peace talks continue. But is it not even more worrying that for a long time the only thing harmonised about EAC in regards to South Sudan was on the negotiations to admit them into the block?
How could we think of admitting South Sudan into the EAC while at the same time clearly oblivious of the political shenanigans that have thrown the country back to war. Shouldn’t we have been looking into their political stability and not just whether we take so much matooke or KCB branches there? I am only asking these questions because I am not the expert with the answers.