Thursday, December 30, 2010



By Jerry Okungu

Nairobi, Kenya

December 30, 2010

As 2010 comes to a close, we the people of this region have a lot of things to thank God for despite the many setbacks and violent acts visited upon us by our enemies. We must thank God for a relatively peaceful election in Tanzania that saw President Jakaya Kikwete reelected for a second and last term.

During the same year, Rwanda also held its elections successfully that saw Paul Kagame reelected for another seven years. Despite sporadic violence prior to the elections, Kagame finally picked more than 90% of the votes to legitimize his victory.

As two nations in East Africa held their elections successfully, the same could not be said of Ivory Coast’s fiasco where a defeated incumbent refused to vacate office despite having been declared the loser. Despite the verdict of the country’s national election body, international observers and the United Nations, Laurent Gbagbo has gone ahead to name a cabinet despite the stand-off.

Back here in Kenya, it has truly been our year of real politics. During the same period, we fought tooth and nail to finally get a new constitution despite attempts by the clergy and a few politicians to derail it. When we promulgated it three weeks later, it was attended by leaders from the region.

The same year has seen our six top leaders named in The Hague court as suspects most culpable during the 2007-8 post election violence. Chief among them were a former Higher Education Minister, a serving Finance Minister, a serving Industrialization Minister and a serving Head of the Civil Service. If The Hague keeps its timetable, their trials should begin in another five to six months. If indeed they get indicted, then they will not be eligible to run for any elections in the near future.

The same year saw two of Kenya’s cabinet ministers resign their offices on corruption allegations as another assistant minister stepped down after being named in parliament as one of the drug barons banned for life by the American government from setting foot on American soil.

As we wait to usher in the New Year, two crucial events await us in this region. First we have the South Sudan referendum next door that is likely to produce the youngest nation in our midst. If it goes peacefully, Africa will in the New Year be celebrating its 54th member with the possibility that the East African Community will accept its sixth member in the not too distant future.

However, if for some reason the referendum results are disputed by either party to the CPA of 2005, chances of another war in Sudan are likely to be on the horizon with dire consequences for the stability of the region.

In another month or so, Ugandans will elect their new leaders for another five years. Indications so far are that it will be peaceful despite the number of presidential candidates. And seeing concessions being made by the Electoral Commission to opposition parties, it can only mean that there is desire to have a free a fair election process in Uganda. Furthermore, coupled with the timely intervention of the clergy to create a level playing field, one can only assume that such wise counsel will auger well for the country’s democratic process.

As we close the year and wait for the elections in Uganda, we cannot for one moment forget the real threat that the Al Shabaabs from Mogadishu has exposed us to. During these trying moments when terrorism has become a global problem, our governments must not let their guards down in dealing with terrorism from anywhere, local or international. And bearing in mind that the twin attacks in Kampala on 7/11 are still very fresh in our minds not to mention the four separate attacks that Nairobi alone has suffered this year; it is a pointer that these thugs will not give up without a fight.

As we deal with our local East African problems, the region should feel honored to have had Kenya’s Prime Minister appointed the AU mediator in the Ivorian crisis. For whatever it is worth, let the region support this gesture at every AU meeting so that the West African country can begin to enjoy the peace that has eluded them since the death of its founding president, Houphuet Boigny several decades ago.

Finally, East Africans would like to see a more committed political leadership that will accelerate economic and political integration of this community. We know that the Common Market process was started in July 2010 but we are sad to note that the borders are still closed to the common man. Freedom of movement of persons, goods and services is still a nightmare. Road blocks are still the order of the day. Arresting nationals of member states under the “Aliens Act, Illegal Immigrants Act” is still the order of the day. This archaic mindset on the part of our rulers must be got rid of for the sake of ordinary citizens. Yes, let us arrest criminals whether they are Kenyans, Ugandans, Tanzanian, Rwandans or Burundians and try them in local courts and jail them locally Ugandan style rather than brand them aliens.