EDITORIAL: New EAC passport should strengthen ties, not xenophobia

Rwanda yesterday began issuing the new electronic East African passport as part of the integration efforts of the East African Community (EAC).

The new passport adopted by all member states of the EAC will in the next two years replace the current national one, be it national, service or diplomatic.

In normal circumstances, five countries sharing one passport would be good news for integration purposes; it would be a vote of confidence that the nationals of those countries are one and the same and share the same aspirations. But things that are happening at the moment, between some member states, don’t inspire much confidence.

Right now, a Kenyan lawmaker-cum-musician is passing his weekend in a Nairobi jail for xenophobic attacks against the Chinese – wait a moment – and some member states of the EAC. He explicitly threatens violence against Ugandan and Tanzanian petty traders, whom, he says, are doing jobs reserved for Kenyans.

Either the lawmaker is ignorant of the EAC protocol, especially concerning free movement of people, goods and labour, or he is just a populist as many politicians tend to be.

But either way, inciting violence is very out of order and something needs to be done, but it will not be surprising if the lawmaker gets away with a simple slap on the wrist. If we want to continue singing regional integration, then we better start dancing to its tune.

The new passport should act as a unifying factor, as the first step towards integration and should be welcomed with open arms; though the same cannot be said of their screaming colours, the designers and deciders could have toned down the hue a bit: The same goes for xenophobia and provocative acts.