“Mr Ban Ki-moon, you are a good man,” said late President Robert Mugabe one time at the UN General Assembly, “But we cannot make you a fighter. We’ll fight our wars.” So is it with Dr Peter Mathuki, the new Secretary-General of the East African Community (EAC), though in a different situation. With his noble intentions, will he be allowed to keep his wits about him, considering he is plunging into a snake hole some of our leaders have turned the EAC into? Says he: “Creating a conducive business environment will be top on the priority list.” He will achieve it, he continues, “by eliminating non-tariff barriers, adopting business-friendly legal regimes and fast-tracking the Common External Tariff.” All said in good faith and, indeed, doable. And the good Dr promises that “apart from breaking trade barriers”, he will “mend fences, seek investments and unleash the potential of the region as the preferred destination for free movement of goods and services,” according the East African weekly. And truly, it can mark “a new dawn”. Now, mending fences, I personally think that’s the elephant in the EAC room. How do you pluck our leaders out of their inwardly-fixated naval-gazing and point them towards working together for the sole purpose of serving their peoples’ common interests? Because as far as all the EAC people are concerned, given free rein by their leaders, they’ll jump at the chance to do business together. Yet in some areas the situations are so constricted that people don’t know what to do. A country like South Sudan, for instance, needs no fence-mending with anybody. Rather, it needs mending what’s inside its fence. The factions that one moment are sitting around a table and the next they are slitting necks around, how do you coalesce them into a partner that can do business with others? No, Dr, that’s ‘a war’ you must leave to the heads of state to fight. As things stand, the heads of state who have tried to bring the factions together cannot be slighted for not having tried their best. That the effort has born no fruits, that’s an altogether different matter. If there are EAC member countries that need any fence mending, they’ll be Kenya and Tanzania, which shouldn’t be difficult. And with the arrival of Mheshimiwa Samia Suluhu Hassan, there might not be any need to expect a hassle here. Much as, as your business dealings might have revealed, Tanzanians tend to be possessive of their land and all it contains to a point of being paranoid about opening up. Especially that, for some odd reason, it seems to have a misplaced fear of being swamped up mostly by Kenya in business and Rwanda on pasture. But what else is the meaning of investment? Now, Dr, hop over to Burundi and ask them this simple question: do you need any fence-mending with anybody? Most probably it will be Rwanda, but then ask who it is that, knowingly or unknowingly, gives free passage to rebel forays into a neighbouring country. If Umushingantahe Ndayishimiye is honest to you, he’ll plead guilty. Problem is, you’ll be hard placed to trace his whereabouts. You might need to trek to where he might be harvesting some crop or other, if not buying a chunk of goat meat and, before putting it on his head, encouraging the seller to go booze their head off in celebration. Where Ndashimiye’s vision for his country points, you might find yourself helping him to identify! Then cross over to Rwanda, Dr, and there the lowest government official you encounter will lay out for you the tableau of how working with all these countries will benefit all of us and free us all from the begging bowl tendered to the global North. Open borders, business, services, fast-tracking, free movement, cooperation in any way possible, Rwanda will not be found wanting. If you think I am biased as a Rwandan, ask any Ugandan, Kenyan, Tanzanian, any resident here. Now, from Rwanda to Uganda, Dr, carry your passport aloft. Or else, before you can say Ken…, you’ll have been placed in a dungeon where your tortured body may betray and abandon your soul. And, mind you, it won’t be Ugandan security forces to see to the divorce between your body and soul. It will be Rwandan dissidents on the run from their country on crimes of genocide, rape, murder, theft, graft, name any evil. Why that should be so, you might find out better than we. If a man can unceremoniously shift a pipeline project from Lamu to Tanga, what will stop him from unceremoniously shifting it again, say, to Matadi, now that D.R. Congo is soon a member? Dr Mathuki, you may try to seek to harmonise legal regimes, to attract investment, harmonise the countries’ borders, effect free movement of people, goods and services and create a true EAC. You are a good man, but none can make a you a fighter. Put the heads of our Heads together, if you can, and see if they can iron out their insular differences and give us a chance to build the EAC we want as citizens.