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Help! There’s a dangerous, secret plot to save the EAC from imminent death, By Charles Onyango-Obbo

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In an interview with NTV Keny, at the start of the week, Rwanda’s President Paul Kagame painted a rather bleak picture of the East African Community (EAC).

 

He suggested the saga of the East African Regional Force (EACRF) to the troubled eastern Democratic Republic of Congo, which was kicked out ignominiously by a disgruntled government in Kinshasa, was a low point. He said to date, no one has even bothered to formally brief the EAC heads of state on what happened.

 

This debacle, coming on the back of numerous ugly trade and diplomatic spats, despite the latest expansion to include Somalia as the eighth member of the bloc, does not inspire a lot of confidence about the EAC’s future. In Kampala, Uganda President Yoweri Museveni, once the choir leader of the EAC, no longer gets so excited about it.

 

Good East Africans are looking on with alarm. A dyed-in-the-wool pan-East-African Ugandan lawyer wrote to say he has conceived of a plan that will get regional leaders to fall into each other’s arms and turbo charge unification.

 

He plans to arouse patriotic East Africans to establish a radical revolutionary front called the East African Liberation and Unification Front (Ealuf) to work regionally to pressure the governments in Nairobi, Dodoma, Kampala, Kigali, Kinshasa, Juba, Gitega (the newish Burundi political capital), and Mogadishu with an alternative political structure. Ealuf will look to create an East African Peoples Republic.

 

It will have an agenda to abolish all restrictions on travel across borders, have zero tax rates for regional trade, create a regional digital currency, and create a roaring common market, among other things.

 

He believes the leaders will come together at 6G speed, and work hand in hand to stop the ideas espoused by Ealuf from gaining political traction, with its grand vision of a truly meaningful borderless East Africa. In the process, they will move forward with integration to Ealuf.

 

It is likely too, that they will not come together to collectively save their jobs. They might form an East African Emergency Unity Summit (EAEUS), to fight back. President Museveni might want to chair it as the region’s “elder statesman”, having been in power for nearly 40 years.

 

However, some leaders would oppose him, saying he has eaten for long at the top, and should let a younger leader, “new blood”, like Burundi President Évariste Ndayishimiye, or Kenya’s William Ruto, lead it. They will accuse him of scheming to install himself as the East African supreme leader, and clinging on to power until one of his grandchildren was ready to take over from him.

 

Museveni will push back, citing their inexperience. Some will demand that South Sudan President Salva Kiir pay all the arrears his country owes the EAC before it gets full rights in EAEUS. DRC President Felix Tshisekedi will push to exclude President Kagame from taking a seat until Rwanda stops its support for M23 rebels. President Kagame will tell him to go and swim with crocodiles in the Congo River.

 

Somalia President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud will complain that the other leaders are disrespecting him because he is an EAC newbie, and until they change their attitude, he is staying in Mogadishu.

 

As they squabble, some groups might see an opportunity. Al Shabaab might reform, disavow violence, elect new moderate leaders and seek to ally with the regional integration activists as Ealuf-Horn of Africa.

 

In M23 allies with some of the 120 rebel groups and form Ealuf-Congo Basin. A bid by externally based Ugandan groups like a rump Lord’s Resistance Army emerging from the forests of the Central African Republic, and the Allied Democratic Forces in the eastern DRC is rejected, because they have failed to demonstrate good faith credentials.

 

Meanwhile, Ealuf is spreading like wildfire. Large numbers of Ealuf are reported to have hired boats near Entebbe in Uganda, and Mwanza in Tanzania sailing fast on Lake Victoria and converging on Kisumu, where local integrationist forces have mobilised and turned the city into a hotbed of East African unification. In DRC, bands are composing new songs praising the new people’s unification efforts. Young people are organising to link their hands along the half of the 770-kilometre Kenya-Tanzania.

 

All over East Africa, there are reports of high school boys and girls disappearing in large numbers to join Ealuf cadre training camps.

 

Traders are staging solidarity rallies and vowing to divert the taxes they pay to states to Ealuf, and stories of market women all over the region raising money and sending food to the heroic mobilisers are spreading far and wide.

 

International comrades from the Caribbean, Latin America, and Asia are arriving in large numbers in East Africa and joining. Word leaks that some of the EAC presidents are sending out feelers, seeking to meet with Ealuf to cut deals. There are rumours that they are paying some Ealuf leaders big money to defect. The hardliners in Ealuf reject the olive branches, and there is some division in the ranks and a witch hunt for the “traitors,” who are eating money from the presidents.

 

Ealuf recovers and marches on. EAEUS reaches out with an official offer to sit down and dialogue with Ealuf about the formation of an East African Amalgamation. Whether they stick together or get divided, the leaders lose. But Ealuf has only won the first round. This is not over by any means.

 

Charles Onyango-Obbo is a journalist, writer, and curator of the “Wall of Great Africans”. Twitter@cobbo3

Strictly Personal

All eyes in Africa are on Kenya’s bid for a reset, By Joachim Buwembo

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Whoever impregnated Angela Rayner and caused her to drop out of school at the tender age of 16 with no qualifications might be disappointed that we aren’t asking who her baba mtoto (child’s father) is; whether he became a president, king or a vagabond somewhere, since the girl ‘whose leg he broke’ is now UK’s second most powerful person, 28 years since he ‘stole her goat’.

Angela’s rise to such heights after the adversity should be a lesson to countries which, six decades after independence, still have millions of citizens wallowing in poverty and denied basic human dignity, while the elite shamelessly flaunt obscene luxury on their hungry, twisted faces.

After independence, African countries also suffered their adolescent setbacks in the form of military coups. Uganda’s military rule lasted eight years, Kenya’s about eight hours on August 1, 1982, while Tanzania’s didn’t materialise and its first defence chief became an ambassador somewhere.

What we learn from Angela Rayner is that when you’re derailed, it doesn’t matter who derailed you, because nobody wants to know. What matters is that you pick yourself up, not just to march on, but to stand up and shine.To incessantly blame our colonial and slave-trading ‘derailers’ while we treat our fellow citizens worse than the colonialists did only invites the world to laugh. Have you ever read of a colonial officer demanding a bribe from a local before providing the service due?

African countries today need to press ‘reset’. A state operates by written policies, plans, strategies and prescribed penalties with gazetted prisons for those who break the rules.  This is far more power than teenage Angela had, so a reset state should take less time to become prosperous than the 28 years it took her to get to the top after derailing.

So it’s realistic for countries to operate on five-year planning and electoral cycles, so a state that fails to implement a programme in five years has something wrong with it. It needs a reset.

A basic reset course for African leaders and economists should include:

1. Mindset change: Albert Einstein teaches us that no problem can be solved from the same level of consciousness that created it. For example, if you are in debt, seeking or accepting more debt is using the same level of thinking that put you there. If you don’t like Einstein’s genius, you can even try an animal in the bush that falls into a hole and stops digging. Our economists are certainly better than a beast in the bush.

2. Stealing is wrong: African leaders and civil servants need to revisit their catechism or madarasa – stealing public resources is as immoral as rape.

3. Justifying wrong doesn’t make it right: Using legalese and putting sinful benefits in the budget is immoral and can incite the deprived to destroy everything.

4. Take inventory of your resources and plan to use them: If Kenya, for example, has a railway line running from Mombasa to Nairobi, is it prudent to borrow $3.6 billion to build a highway parallel to it before paying off and electrifying the railway?

If Uganda is groaning under a $2 billion annual petrol import bill, does it make sense to beg Kenya for access to import more fuel, when Kampala is already manufacturing and marketing electric buses, while failing to use hundreds of megawatts it generates, yet the country has to pay for the unused power?

If Tanzania… okay, TZ has entered the 21st Century with its electric trains soon to be operating between Dar es Salaam and Morogoro. Ethiopia, too, has connected Addis Ababa to the port of Djibouti with a 753-kilometre electric railway,  and moves hundreds of thousands of passengers in Addis every day by electric train.

5. Protect the environment: We don’t own it, we borrowed it from our parents to preserve it for our children. Who doesn’t know that the future of the planet is at stake?

6. Do monitoring and evaluation: Otherwise you may keep doing the same thing that does not work and hope for better results, as a sage defined lunacy.

7. Don’t blame the victims of your incompetence: This is basic fairness.

We could go on, but how boring! Who doesn’t know these mundane points? We are not holding our breath for Angela’s performance, because if she fails, she will be easily replaced. Africa’s eyes should now be on Kenya to see how they manage an abrupt change without the mass bloodshed that often accompanies revolutions.

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Strictly Personal

The post-budget crisis in Kenya might be good for Africa, after all, By Joachim Buwembo

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The surging crisis that is being witnessed in Kenya could end up being a good thing for Africa if the regional leaders could step back and examine the situation clinically with cool-headed interest. Maybe there is a hand of God in the whole affair. For, how do explain the flare not having started in harder-pressed countries such as Zambia, Mozambique and Ghana?

As fate would have it, it happened in East Africa, the region that is supposed to provide the next leadership of the African Union Commission, in a process that is about to start. And, what is the most serious crisis looming on Africa’s horizon? It is Debt of course.

Even the UN has warned the entire world that Africa’s debt situation is now a crisis. As at now, three or four countries are not facing debt trouble — and that is only for now.

There is one country, though, that is virtually debt-free, having just been freed from debt due to circumstances: Somalia. And it is the newest member of the East African Community. Somalia has recently had virtually all its foreign debt written off in recognition of the challenges it has been facing in nearly four decades.

Why is this important? Because debt is the choicest weapon of neocolonialists. There is no sweeter way to steal wealth than to have its owners deliver it to you, begging you, on all fours, to take it away from them, as you quietly thank the devil, who has impaired their judgement to think that you are their saviour.

So?

So, the economic integration Africa has embarked on will, over the next five or so years, go through are a make-or-break stage, and it must be led by a member that is debt-free. For, there is no surer weapon to subjugate and control a society than through debt.

A government or a country’s political leadership can talk tough and big until their creditor whispers something then the lion suddenly becomes a sheep. Positions agreed on earlier with comrades are sheepishly abandoned. Scheduled official trips get inexplicably cancelled.

Debt is that bad. In African capitals, presidents have received calls from Washington, Paris or London to cancel trips and they did, so because of debt vulnerability.

In our villages, men have lost wives to guys they hate most because of debt. At the state level, governments have lost command over their own institutions because of debt. The management of Africa’s economic transition, as may be agreed upon jointly by the continental leaders, needs to be implemented by a member without crippling foreign debt so they do not get instructions from elsewhere.

The other related threat to African states is armed conflict, often internal and not interstate. Somalia has been going through this for decades and it is to the credit of African intervention that statehood was restored to the country.

This is the biggest prize Africa has won since it defeated colonialism in (mostly) the 1960s decade. The product is the new Somalia and, to restore all other countries’ hope, the newly restored state should play a lead role in spreading stability and confidence across Africa.

One day, South Sudan, too, should qualify to play a lead role on the continent.

What has been happening in Kenya can happen in any other African country. And it can be worse. We have seen once promising countries with strong economies and armies, such as Libya, being ravaged into near-Stone Age in a very short time. Angry, youthful energy can be destructive, and opportunistic neocolonialists can make it inadvertently facilitate their intentions.

Containing prolonged or repetitive civil uprisings can be economically draining, both directly in deploying security forces and also by paralysing economic activity.

African countries also need to become one another’s economic insurance. By jointly managing trade routes with their transport infrastructure, energy sources and electricity distribution grids, and generally pursuing coordinated industrialisation strategies in observance of regional and national comparative advantages, they will sooner than later reduce insecurity, even as the borders remain porous.

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