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EAC protocol signing deserved more coverage

By Vision Reporter

Added 26th November 2009 03:00 AM

Oblivious to most people, the East African Common Market Protocal was signed by the five participating presidents in Arusha on November 20.

Oblivious to most people, the East African Common Market Protocal was signed by the five participating presidents in Arusha on November 20.

By Richard Okech

Oblivious to most people, the East African Common Market Protocal was signed by the five participating presidents in Arusha on November 20.

The signing firmly places East Africa on the road to economic and political intergration by 2015.

The architects (presidents Moi, Nyerere, Museveni and their contemporaries) will go down in history for this priceless feat. To my amazement, the entire East African region seemed to be asleep to this historic event.

On D-day, I checked with all local TV stations at the time of the signing and to my shock, only the twin East African TV stations were airing the event live. The others continued with their normal programming. I was further dumbfounded that none of them featured the event as main news.

On Saturday, November 21, the day after the signing, a few newspapers gave it headlines, such as Tanzania’s Daily News and Uganda’s Saturday Monitor, which captured the historical moment with the phrase, “It’s a deal”, while The New Vision squeezed only a tiny front page column and relegated the story to second page. The Saturday Nation was silent on its front page.

This is unacceptable in a modern era of open borders to speed up cultural, economic, technological and political development for our region and people.

The East African Community (EAC), fast becoming an irreversible reality and following in the footsteps of the European Union, is the only one of its kind in Africa, making it far more advanced, compared to other continental integration concepts such as SADAC, COMESA (which are mainly economic in nature) and the African Union (AU), more like a continental club.

The EAC will defy sceptics and become a success story because all the requisite dynamics exist. It is impossible within this space to reiterate in detail the importance and benefits of the EAC.

The Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) and South Sudan (if it secedes from Sudan as provided for in the Sudan Peace Accord), are natural candidates for the EAC in future, given their close historical ethnic, geographical and economic linkages with the rest of East Africa.

Swahili is spoken as far as eastern DRC. There are Tutsi-related people, Alur, Lugbara, Madi and Lendu speaking people both in Uganda (West Nile) as well as in DRC. There are also Ugandan and South Sudanese Acholi.

The region shares resources such as Lake Victoria-Nile Basin and Albertine oil deposits that would, no doubt, be better harnessed with economic and political intergration, rather than rivalry that would make us vulnerable to external forces.

The British, colonial master of East Africa, as in other parts of their empire, acutely recognised the need for economic and political intergration of their colonies as evidenced by various attempts at closer union in Central Africa, South Africa (Union of South Africa) and East Africa (East African High Commission). The basis, then, was the need for administrative efficiency and removing economic bottlenecks such as conflicting customs and transport networks.

We should all develop consciousness as East Africans and eargely wait to savour the reality of free movement of persons and capital (customs union) across the five East African countries from July 2010, followed by a monetary union and a political unification (whatever the form) in the next five years.

The writer is a secondary school teacher

EAC protocol signing deserved more coverage

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