Those who know me closely know how much admiration I have for a gentleman called Stephen Kiprotich. He is the Ugandan that some Kenyans love to claim, who won a Gold medal for Ugandan, the first one in a space of 40 years.
A couple of months back, Kenya’s First Lady Margaret Kenyatta won my heart when she took part in the London Marathon. Yes she did not win it but she completed it and knowing how long a marathon is I respect her for that. Actually to put it in perspective she was on her feet running for over 7 hours.
MTN Rwanda also organised a peace marathon in Kigali much more recently. Well I didn’t take part thanks to knowing my athletic limitations quite well. The organisers had different categories for the participants and they soon found themselves in a small trap.
The half marathon had been ring fenced as one for only Rwandans something that soon got people talking. Being part of the East African Community, it becomes a PR challenge to convince people why such a race should be for only Rwandans especially when it is obvious that scores of Kenyans were not going to be happy with such a move.
In a matter of time the message had sunk in and the organisers backed down and said all the categories of the event were open. As expected, the Kenyans took the day and won all the races. A Rwandan friend was left with a bitter taste and complained on his Facebook wall that next time the races should be for Kenyans only.
But for a regional observer like me, that right there is the real gist of what it means to be part of the East African Community. To this day many people love to look at this arrangement as one that should be based on uniformity yet actually the diversity is what we should uplift.
Even though we all host marathons, we need to accept and move on (if I may borrow a phrase common in Kenya) that for marathons, Kenyans rule. Even Uganda’s Kiprotich knows this and that is why to get where he is, he had to train with Kenyans in Kenya.
In other words instead of struggling to keep the Kenyans away from the long races, we should be learning from them. When the Uganda Sports Press Association was awarding the best performing sports personalities it deemed it fit to invite a famous Kenyan athlete, Ezekiel Kemboi who besides doing his now world famous ‘Kemboi’ dance must have shared some tips with Ugandan athletes who would want to emulate him.
A Kenyan friend of mine who resides in the Arab world never tires to concede that in East Africa, Ugandans take the football cup despite Uganda’s dismal continental results in the last 40 years. It is not so hard to come to such a conclusion though since Uganda loves to win games that involve fellow East African countries.
I have heard several Rwandans say the Burundians are kings when it comes to arts culture. I am no expert in that field to verify that assertion but I must say nothing gets my attention like the sights and sounds of Burundian men working those drums of theirs. The beats they pull off are the kind that Apple should one day think of buying now that it has finished with Dr. Dre’s Beats.
I also know that while several Ugandan musicians like Jose Chameleon and the duo of Radio and Weasel are now seen as the kings of the stage and are loved in all East African capitals, of late the Tanzanians are giving them a run for their money especially through one young man called Diamond Platinumz.
This year the only East African who made it to the BET Awards nominations is Diamond Platinumz from Tanzania. His music will be heard blaring from speakers almost in any town in East Africa and as far as DRC and Comoros. I have noticed that he knows how to market himself quite well too.
I am sure you have heard many people who are not from Rwanda using this country as a reference for cleanliness, ICT or good governance practices especially the fight against corruption. The space I am allowed is not enough for me to exhaust the different areas that each country is good at but what is important is being able to accept these differences and use them as strong points to develop our region.