Tuesday, September 22, 2009



By Jerry Okungu
Nairobi, Kenya
September 22, 2009

As world leaders gather in New York to discuss weighty matters of climate change and later in the next few weeks for another forum in Copenhagen, back home in East Africa, we must sit back and take stock of events in our region.

The reason we need to take stock is because in recent years, we have invested heavily in the progression of our region to a single economic unit along the lines of the European Union and the United States of America.

For many decades, people of this region have yearned for a single Common Market and a possible single currency in the near future even if the ultimate political integration may still be far in the horizon.

It is these high and ambitious goals that call for stock taking to find out if we are on the right track.

Yes, we are now beginning to reap the fruits of the Customs Union we launched in 2005. With a bit of luck, we may realize the next stage of our economic integration when the Common Market charter becomes a reality and operational on January 1 2010 if the news from the EAC is to be believed.

With discussions on the Common currency already initiated, it can only mean that the Common Market launch is on course especially if one looks at President Kikwete’s recent pronouncements that Tanzanians must be ready to compete with their counterparts from the rest of East Africa if they are to survive as a people.

However, with all these encouraging and positive developments, there are worrying trends that need urgent attention from our political leaders in the Community.

We have the LRA in Northern Uganda that must be dealt with if Uganda has to join the Common Market as a peaceful and investment friendly part of the Community. Other than the belligerent LRA in the North, Yoweri Museveni must find an acceptable political solution to the issues raised by the Baganda rather than create situations that breed violent conflicts right in the seat of power in Uganda.

We must remember that one of the cardinal principles of the 1999 EAC Treaty is to promote good governance, create wealth and raise the well being of citizens of this Community. We cannot achieve these goals if Kenya and Uganda abuse these cardinal principles of good leadership.

In Kenya, we have this volatile situation where Parliament has taken on the Executive on a lot of issues. All the issues in contention have to do with wrong Executive decisions which in essence amount to poor management of our political process. It may be remembered that it was due to the same bad governance practices that Kenya was plunged into turmoil in December 2007.

As I write this article, apart from dealing with earth breaking political upheavals like the stand-off between President Kibaki and Parliament over the Anti Corruption Commission appointments, leading Kenyan politicians are likely to be arrested any time now for crimes against humanity and hauled into The Hague for their roles in the 2007 post election violence that claimed 1500 lives and left thousands homeless.

For the region to come out of these setbacks; the rest of the region must emulate Paul Kagame for steering Rwanda out of the genocide era and turning it into a proud modern state that has become the envy of many states in Africa.

Rwanda has overcome many prejudices because it supported the trial of warlords that planned and committed crimes in the 1994 genocide that claimed nearly a million people. Because it sanctioned the trials in Arusha and The Hague, the government moved on with building institutions that would safeguard the country from sliding back.

Today, Kagame can stand tall and tell the West that he has done it. That he has restored peace and brought prosperity to his people through sheer determination to introduce reforms that genuinely believe in good governance as we know it.

This is the path that Yoweri Museveni must take. He must retrace his steps and ask what wrong step he took to have led Ugandans back to another round of conflict after fighting a bitter and long bush war for the sake of democracy.

It is the same path that former oppositionists now in the Kenya government must take. They too must find out where the rain started beating them. They must urgently deal with the ills they always accused Moi of but are now practicing; the ills of corruption, plunder of public resources, and devastation of public forests, nepotism, landlessness, poverty and glaring inequality in our society today.

If we are truly genuine in achieving our regional integration, we must surely clean up our act before we unite.

Finally, this is not the time to start fighting over which country should host what institution. Let us build institutions first then accommodate all our fears and desires in a new East African Constitution that must spell out how to distribute institutions and resources among member states. Anybody who introduces this debate at this point in time is short-sighted and does not wish us well.