The last few days have the seen the world focused on what some have called an archaic institution, the British Royal Family. Many nostalgically waited for the wedding of Prince William and Kate Middleton more like they did as Prince Charles was getting married to Princess Diana three decades ago.
The much anticipated wedding was seen by some women as an event equivalent to the FIFA World Cup final in the men’s world! I did manage to spend a few minutes to watch it on TV on Friday including the much anticipated public kiss on the balcony of Buckingham Palace.
Closer home, it was the story of Dr. Richard Sezibera’s appointment as the new Secretary General of the East African Community to replace to replace Amb. Juma Mwapachu. The media in the region were awash with stories praising the good doc-turned diplomat as the best choice for the job.
The praises focused on two angles. One being that it was justice for Rwanda after the rumours that other countries were interested in occupying the post once more. The second justification was that Dr. Sezibera has a great track record on the diplomatic circuit that he was indeed the best man for the job.
For those same reasons, even regional newspapers joined the frenzy of congratulating Rwanda and Dr. Sezibera. More so, over the years, Rwanda has crafted a new image that often has many foreigners envying the pace of development in the country.
For this reason, hearing that a Rwandan is taking charge at Arusha evokes hope and trust in a new positive tide being exported from Kigali to Arusha.
So now that the applause is over and the celebratory confetti has all landed on the floor, it is time for the real business to get under way.
The expectations from Dr. Sezibera’s reign are quite high and so he better not disappoint.
He should not just bring the Rwandan magic to Arusha but he also has to bring Arusha to Kigali, Kampala, Dar, Bujumbura and Nairobi.
The truth is that Arusha or the EAC is still so alien a concept to most people in the region. If you doubt just think about the following.
How many of us know anyone at the EAC secretariat other than Dr. Sezibera? How many of us remember the other people who have served in Dr. Seziera’s position before him and Amb. Mwapachu?
The EAC has an anthem, how many of us know it? (For example I don’t).
The biggest question I have always had about the EAC is the issue of identity. Who exactly is an East African? We always talk about regional integration and federation yet we can hardly define ourselves. Many times I hear Rwandans of all ages saying, “Ubu turi muri East African Community”
Part of Dr. Sezibera’s to-do list should include making Rwandans and other people in the East African Community feel and see the presence of EAC beyond the ubiquitous summits held in the different capitals.
More importantly I believe we need to see a stronger EAC as an institution before we can romanticise about expanding the community by rushing to admit Southern Sudan or any other nation wishing to join the bloc.
In a young family it is always important for the parent to have secure income generating sources before they can embark on having more children, and this principle should apply to the EAC.
With the massive support that our doctor has received he should be in position to reduce the isolation of the member countries in the community. We are supposed to be one big close family but in actual sense each country appears like a step brother to another.
If we are indeed a family with so much in common then how come when Albinos are being killed in Tanzania it does not raise any dust in other capitals? Why are we still making fellow East Africans pay so much more when they go to attend university in Uganda?
If indeed the Tanzanians speak better Swahili than the rest of us, how come we have not bothered to recruit them to teach us the proper grammar of the language we all apparently use and understand?
The East African Community has already celebrated its 10th anniversary, yet the East African passport is gathering dust in many immigration stores. Many thought the Common Market would result in more goods flowing in and cheaply but little seems to have changed. Why?
I am sure the readers are also burdened by several questions and I hope that the good doctor will do a great job of demystifying the EAC to the average ‘Mwanainchi’. Over to you doctor.