From parties to debates: Is the EAC doing it right?

On October 9, Uganda joined the 50s club when it celebrated 50 years since being allowed to govern itself. I am one of those people who still have a problem with the usage of the term independence considering all the talking down that our leaders often have to endure from the donors.
Allan Brian Ssenyonga
Allan Brian Ssenyonga

On October 9, Uganda joined the 50s club when it celebrated 50 years since being allowed to govern itself. I am one of those people who still have a problem with the usage of the term independence considering all the talking down that our leaders often have to endure from the donors.

The complexities of aid have actually reversed so much of our independence over the years we seem to have even forgotten whether we should be working towards total emancipation of our people, or simply replacing the Western bosses with Chinese bosses.

Aid has also turned some of our leaders into frequent travellers to Western (plus China) capitals where they are expected to ‘boost bilateral relations’, which is code for asking for more funding or time to pay back old loans. But let me not digress from what I had planned to say.

As Uganda celebrated 50 years, there was a wave of patriotism that is only marched by the now occasional one that comes with each international football match the country hosts. However, I wondered why this love for a nation has to be pegged to an event 50 years later or a football match every now and then. It is like the lovers who become romantic on Valentine’s Day and on their spouses’ birthday.

The most beautiful thing about the festivities in my view was the presence of several heads of state, especially from the region. I think it is expected in most African cultures that when someone has either a party or a funeral, the neighbours join in to show their love.

For that I say asante to Pres. Kagame, Pres. Kibaki and Pres. Nkurunziza who were there in person. It was also nice to see the leader of Somalia and DRC’s Pres. Kabila. Next year it will be Kenya clocking the magical 50. What this means is that we are all about the same age as far as colonialism is concerned.

The bigger question is whether we are on the same footing as far as EAC integration is concerned. Do our leaders really have the EAC issue on their tables or is it something that pops up every once in a while like a pop up on an old internet browser?

If I look at Kenya, for instance, a major election is looming and the air is thick with politics. Even when 20 people are killed the main story will be about a politician moving from one political party to another or the one who is trying to seek an alliance (tribal alliance) with another.

I mentioned here sometime that the elites were paying more attention to the presidential campaign in the US than what was happening closer to their homes. The debate between Pres. Barack Obama and Gov. Mitt Romney was so keenly followed – if you were on Twitter you would think East Africa has a huge American population.

The good thing that came out of this is that the media owners in Kenya have organised a live presidential debate that will air on all the major TV stations as well as radio stations. Kenyans have been quick to point out how this is a first in the region and a sign of maturity.

Well, Ugandans tried this whole debate thing before but the President sent a representative and thus sucked out all the excitement. And for that reason our Kenyan friends do not count the Ugandan debate as a debate at all regardless of the fact that it had the other candidates in attendance.

I did spend some time watching Gov. Romney giving Obama a run for his money and recently also watched as Joe Biden made Paul Ryan to look like a really young boy trying to be heard. Away from the personalities involved, the lesson I learnt from these debates was that the focus was on policies, facts and figures.

I just wonder whether on November 26 the Kenyan leaders (one of whom has already dropped out of the race) will be able to steer clear of the mudslinging, tribal and name calling antics to give us their policies, facts and figures.

It would be very interesting to see what they have to say about the EAC. When the Americans are debating, foreign policy is a key issue. Why is the EAC hardly a key issue in our politics? Why should it only come up in summits and be swept under the carpet when presidential elections come around? I am waiting for the debate.

Blog: www.ssenyonga.wordpress.com
Twitter: @ssojo81

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