Technocrats at the East African Community (EAC) Secretariat in Arusha, Tanzania tell us that the EAC integration process will be ‘people centred and private sector driven.’ Events in the recent past give credence to this bold claim.
Early this week, the East African Community military sports and culture event 2011 kicked off at the Prince Rwagasore Stadium in the Burundian capital Bujumbura. More than 500 sportsmen and women in uniform from the EAC Partner States are taking part in the two week-long event.
The EAC is witnessing a new dawn on how the military is perceived. Shared values and not valour is the new paradigm for EAC defence forces. This cannot be better demonstrated than in sports. The EAC Secretary General Ambassador Dr. Richard Sezibera could not put it any better when he referred to the games as ‘one of the most successful and exemplary programmes in the EAC integration process.’
The Military Games bear a symbolic significance of the aspirations to a competitive, stable and united East Africa. Sport is associated with fair play, tolerance and team work. With this backdrop, programs like joint military training, joint operations and technical cooperation among the EAC Defence Forces as is enshrined in the Memorandum of Understanding on Cooperation in Defence, will be facilitated.
If there is a group of people that will play a critical role in the integration process it will be the musicians. With our men and women in uniform and talking and playing, then our people are ready to sing and dance! Part of the Vision of the EAC is to widen and deepen Economic, Political, Social and Culture integration in order to improve the quality of life of the people of East Africa.
Music knows no borders. The region is witnessing a new wave of collaborations between musicians from the EAC countries. When the artistes sing together, they carry their fans along and unite them in song. Such is the power of music. Fans rally behind their favourite artistes who are not necessarily from their own countries.
Music can also do much more. The private sector has realised the power of music and is now using it as a marketing tool. The famous Tusker Project Fame is a case in point. Artistes from across the region have participated in the competition that has had a formidable following. Apart from marketing their products, Tusker Project Fame has been a big advertisement for the spirit of East Africa.
EAC region now boasts a sizeable market of a combined population of 130 million. The integration process has reached a critical stage that requires the active involvement of the ordinary people.
If we can have the 130 million people in the region playing and singing, there is no doubt that the realisation of the remaining steps in the EAC integration process: the Monetary Union and the Political Federation will be a cup of tea.