The Development of the EAC

The concept of the EAC was first founded in the 1967 but collapsed ten years later mainly due to political differences. Kenya was practically running under capitalism lead by the then president the late Jomo Kenyatta. Tanzania had Mwalimu Nyerere who firmly believed in socialism, and he did not fail to act on his believes. Uganda on the under hand was under the confused and dictatorial rule of
Idi Amin, it was an economical, political and social mistake to get into any agreement with Uganda at that time.

Despite this initial failure, there has been tremendous effort by the three countries and the two new: Rwanda and Burundi who recently joined the bandwagon, to make the EAC dream a reality. So far there have been three development strategies that have been drawn to provide guidelines to ensure the stabilisation of the EAC. The stages agreed upon and on which the development strategies are drawn upon can be summarised into four parts. The stages are meant to be steps that lead to the political federation of East Africa as the ultimate goal. The first step, which has already been implemented, was the formation of a customs Union, this was to be followed by a common market, then a monitory union and lastly a political federation.

The first development strategy (1997-2000) served to re-launch officially the whole EAC idea. It was a development from the tripartite treaty that bound the three initial countries. It was also a way to show the seriousness of the matter.

The second development strategy (2001-2005) helped in the achievement of the customs union. This meant that there was no tariff on goods crossing borders, and non-tariff barriers were eliminated as well. However because Kenya was exporting more to its neighbours than it was importing from them, it was agreed that Kenya would continue to incur costs for exporting its goods at a reducing rate up until 2010.

As the second development strategy came to an end there was a unanimous agreement that there was need for a speed up of the process towards the actualisation of a political federation, where the EAC would have a single policy Centre, and a rotational presidency. The step-by-step approach was taking too much time, and it would have been ages before a political federation was formed. Goals were set to have the political federation by 2010, yet issues were dragging.

One nagging question remains, what is the role of the common citizen in the whole process. The leadership culture in Africa has been, the ruling class making all the decisions for the sake of its citizens, but at the same time forgetting to incorporate, inform or consult their views. Yet the citizens are the hardest hit by the consequences of the decisions. Those who will be affected by it do not know talks of the EAC and the impact it will have on them; many argue that it is an idea for the elite and powerful by the elite and powerful. Could this be another recipe for failure?

The 21st century is an information driven age, and geographical boundaries are slowly becoming obsolete. With globalisation, it is very important that EAC becomes a success, but the achievement of a political federation by 2010 and a monitory union by 2009 will be breaking the string on the bow, thus making the bow useless.
There are several bottlenecks. The first being that all the stakeholders have not been involved in the planning process, and thus may not support the implementation process. The days of forcing issues down the throats of citizens are long gone.

Another obstacle is that none of the countries yet has the kind of leadership required for such a federation to exist: selfless leaders, ready to serve. In Kenya for example politicians are more concerned with protecting their interests, mainly politically and economically, and if the political federation will affect this that they will oppose it. At the moment they are not very comfortable with it.

Tanzania on the other hand is a rich country in terms of natural resources. Tanzania has more land than Kenya and Uganda put together, it also does not have a single internally displaced citizen, hence their fears in case the aggressive Kenyans, with a high number of internally displaced persons take their land away from them. 

Rwanda has just come from a dark moment and is doing very well, though Kagame is accused of rigidity in his leadership. Is he ready to let go of his country, to be governed by policies drawn by the East African Community?

It is agreeable that in this globalisation era, it is paramount that countries identify their niche and place themselves strategically in the global market or be at a risk of not been recognised. The EAC will provide a better bargaining power for the five countries in the international market. If a country does not survive globalisation what is to become of it later? Post-globalisation. On the other side of the coin, are the five countries mature enough to handle such a task by 2010?

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