Africa Day was great now we need EAC Day

Many of my friends did not realise that May 25, was actually Africa Day. I know many of them are not as newsy as I am and news to some is limited to the score between Barcelona and Manchester United but not a resolution by the African Union on the crisis in Libya.Well Africa Day marks the day in 1963 when the Organisation of African Unity (OAU) was founded. On that day, leaders of 30 of the 32 independent African states signed a founding charter in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.

Many of my friends did not realise that May 25, was actually Africa Day. I know many of them are not as newsy as I am and news to some is limited to the score between Barcelona and Manchester United but not a resolution by the African Union on the crisis in Libya.

Well Africa Day marks the day in 1963 when the Organisation of African Unity (OAU) was founded. On that day, leaders of 30 of the 32 independent African states signed a founding charter in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.

In 2002, the OAU became the African Union, however, the name and day stayed put.

This year’s theme was “Africa and the Diaspora.” The growing contribution of the Africans in Diaspora through the remittances can no longer be ignored.

In many countries, remittances have long surpassed the traditional exports. More importantly, a lot of this money is spent on developmental ventures like paying for school fees for relatives and real estate investments.

In the ‘Twittersphere’ the day took on an interesting theme.

A hash tag #tobeafrican was used by tweets to explain in 140 characters what it means to be an African. The responses were quite interesting to follow.

Some of them bordered on our shortcomings or folly like, “to be African is to love showing off.” This particular tweet was complete with a photo of a car that had personalised registration plates!

Others were plain humorous, “to be African is to give directions using landmarks and memories, who needs maps?”

The majority of the tweets were about unique positive qualities such as, “to be African is to look at every single black person and know he/she is your brother or sister.” “To be African is to know your neighbour.”

There was even a particular one that kind of reflects what our president is fond of doing.

“To be African is to fight myths, counter ignorant stereotypes and deconstruct sweeping generalisations every single day…and not complain.”

Personally it was a great day to be on Twitter following Africans as they proudly talk about the most misunderstood continent.

Many of the things I read simply brought a smile to my face and a lot more joy and pride in my heart as an African.

The whole concept of Africa Day got me thinking of my pet obsession the East African Community.

You may agree that it is not so difficult for us to define or describe what it means to be a Rwandan, Ugandan or even an African.

However there is a bigger mental strain when we attempt to define or describe what it means to be an East African.

The question of what it means to be an East African is one that calls for a joint brainstorming effort.

We basically know what the East African Community is but we have trouble putting a finger on the unifying character of the people. What are the peculiar behavioural patterns that set us apart from other Africans?

30 November 1999 was the day when the Treaty establishing the EAC was signed.

Why doesn’t the EAC secretariat designate this day as EAC Day for us to deliberate on what it really means to be an East African? What are the desired or acceptable behaviours that should define one’s East African-ness?

According to the EAC website, the core values of the EAC are professionalism, accountability, transparency, teamwork, unity in diversity and allegiance to EAC ideals. How are these values being promoted among the wananchi?

We should have an EAC Day punctuated by activities that highlight the spirit of the EAC.

On such a day, great East Africans like sportsmen, academics or anyone who has contributed to making the community a better place should be celebrated and awarded for their achievements.

On such a day, Rwandans should get to know about the great Kenyans, Tanzanians, Ugandans and Burundians and the same should happen in these countries with regard to Rwanda.

At the school level we could use the day to organise school quizzes and essay competitions.

It would also be a great opportunity to read what people really think about the community and what it means to be an East African.

I would cherish the idea of a Twitter hash tag #tobeaneastafrican.

It is high time we got answers to the question of what it means to be an East African.

ssenyonga@gmail.com