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Strictly Personal

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



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

This is chaos, not governance, and we must stop it, By Tee Ngugi



The following are stories that have dominated mainstream media in recent times. Fake fertiliser and attempts by powerful politicians to kill the story. A nation of bribes, government ministries and corporations where the vice is so routine that it has the semblance of policy. Irregular spending of billions in Nairobi County.


Billions are spent in all countries on domestic and foreign travel. Grabbing of land belonging to state corporations, was a scam reminiscent of the Kanu era when even public toilets would be grabbed. Crisis in the health and education sectors.


Tribalism in hiring for state jobs. Return of construction in riparian lands and natural waterways. Relocation of major businesses because of high cost of power and heavy taxation. A tax regime that is so punitive, it squeezes life out of small businesses. Etc, ad nauseam.


To be fair, these stories of thievery, mismanagement, negligence, incompetence and greed have been present in all administrations since independence.


However, instead of the cynically-named “mama mboga” government reversing this gradual slide towards state failure, it is fuelling it.


Alternately, it’s campaigning for 2027 or gallivanting all over the world, evoking the legend of Emperor Nero playing the violin as Rome burned.


A government is run based on strict adherence to policies and laws. It appoints the most competent personnel, irrespective of tribe, to run efficient departments which have clear-cut goals.


It aligns education to its national vision. Its strategies to achieve food security should be driven by the best brains and guided by innovative policies. It enacts policies that attract investment and incentivize building of businesses. It treats any kind of thievery or negligence as sabotage.


Government is not a political party. Government officials should have nothing to do with political party matters. They should be so engaged in their government duties that they literally would not have time for party issues. Government jobs should not be used to reward girlfriends and cronies.


Government is exhausting work undertaken because of a passion to transform lives, not for the trappings of power. Government is not endless campaigning to win the next election. To his credit, Mwai Kibaki left party matters alone until he had to run for re-election.


We have corrupted the meaning of government. We have parliamentarians beholden to their tribes, not to ideas.


We have incompetent and corrupt judges. We have a civil service where you bribe to be served. Police take bribes to allow death traps on our roads. We have urban planners who plan nothing except how to line their pockets. We have regulatory agencies that regulate nothing, including the intake of their fat stomachs.


We have advisers who advise on which tenders should go to whom. There is no central organising ethos at the heart of government. There is no sense of national purpose. We have flurries of national activities, policies, legislation, appointments which don’t lead to meaningful growth. We just run on the same spot.


Tee Ngugi is a Nairobi-based political commentator

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Strictly Personal

Off we go again with public shows, humbug and clowning, By Jenerali Uliwengu



The potential contestants in the approaching elections are already sizing themselves up and assessing their chances of fooling their people enough for them to believe that they are truly going to “bring development” to them.


I mean, you have to be a true believer to believe that someone who says they have come to offer their services to you as your representative in the local council or in the national parliament and they tell you that they are going to build your roads to European standards, and your schools are going to be little Eatons; your hospitals are going to be better and more lavishly equipped than the Indian hospitals, where many of our high-placed people go for treatment, and your water supply will be so regular that you have to worry only about drowning!


I mean no exaggeration here, for the last time we had the occasion to listen to such clowns — five years ago — we heard one joker promise he would take all his voters to the United States for a visit.


He was actually voted to parliament, or at least the cabal acting as the electoral commission says he was. He has never revisited that promise as far as I can remember, but that must surely be because he is still negotiating with the American embassy for a few million visas for his voters!


Yes, really, these are always interesting times, when normally sober people turn out to be raving mad and university dons become illiterate.


Otherwise tell me how this can happen: Some smart young man or woman shows up in your neighbourhood and puts up posters and erects stands and platforms for the campaign and goes around the constituency declaring his or her ardent desire to “develop” your area by bringing in clean and safe water, excellent schools, competent teachers, the best agricultural experts as extension officers, etc, etc.

These goodies

At the time this clown is promising all these goodies, you realise he has been distributing money and items such as tee-shirts, kitenge prints, khangas, caps as well as organising feeding programmes, where everyone who cares can feed to satiation and drink whatever they want with practically no limitation.

Seriously, I have been asking myself this question: Would you employ a young man who shows up at your front porch and tells you he is seeking a job to develop your garden and tells you that, while you are thinking whether to employ him, “Here is money for you and your family to eat and drink for now!”

Now, if we think such a man should be reported to the police or taken to a mental institution, why are we behaving in exactly the same way?

Many a time we witness arguments among countrymen trying to solve the conundrum of our continued failure to move forward economically, despite our abundant resources, and it seems like we haven’t got a clue.

But is this not one of the cues, if not probably the most important clue, that we have not found a way to designate our leaders?

It ought to be clear to any person above childhood that this type of electoral system and practice can never deliver anything akin to development or progress.

Now, consider that we have being doing this same thing over and over — in many of our countries elections follow a certain periodicity like clockwork — but we have not discovered the truth.

Put simply, our politics is badly rigged against our people, and elections have become just devices to validate the political hooliganism of the various cabals running our countries like so many Mafia families.

Knee-jerk supporters

We have so demeaned our people, whom we have turned into knee-jerk supporters of whoever gives them food and drink around election time, that now they say that at least at election time it is their turn to eat, which means, naturally, that at all other times it is the turn of the ones who “bring development” to the people.

Clearly, this is not working, and it is no wonder that dissatisfaction and frustration are rife, as our people cannot put a finger to the thing that holds them back.

Apart from these sham elections, from time to time, the rulers organise shows designed to make the people believe that somebody is concerned about their problems.

We have one such masquerade happening in Tanzania right now, where public meetings are organised so people can vent their frustration. But these will never solve any problems; they are just shows.

If the elections we have been holding had any substance, there would not be any need for such public shows, except those organised by those people we elected.

Where are they? What is the use of spending so much money and other resources to erect and maintain a political system that has to be propped by public shows, where people come to vent their grievances over the hopelessness of the system in place?

I am just asking.

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