KIRUKU: Broken but not defeated…EAC must remain united after AU
Claims that some East African Community Partner states did not voted for Kenya’s nominee to the African Union Commission Chairperson seat, must not be allowed to affect the bilateral relations between the EAC countries.
The loss of Kenya’s Foreign Affairs Cabinet Secretary, Amina Mohamed’s bid for the AU top seat must not affect the unity of the East African Community. Instead, the loss should be an eye opener on the deep rooted cracks existing within the community. Consequently, our leaders must put all the cards on the table and forge the way forward if the community is to remain united and vibrant.
Kenya’s disappointment is understandable. The country sent diplomats across 53 countries during the three months intensive lobbying season seeking for votes, where close to $3.5million was spent. All the same, the loss should not be seen as a Kenyan defeat but as an East African Community loss.
The claims that Amina lost to Chad’s foreign affairs minister Moussa Faki Mahamat after seven rounds of voting due to the refusal by Uganda, Djibouti and Burundi to vote for Kenya are damaging to the unity of the EAC to say the least.
Already, Uganda has dispelled claims that it voted against Amina Mohamed after Kenya said she will review her bilateral relations with her neighbours. Uganda’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs said this claim was unsubstantiated and false.
It was a noble move for Uganda which immediately released a statement reiterating her support to the candidature of Amina before and during elections.
In the spirit of good neighbourliness, other EAC countries should respond to claims that they voted against her neighbour. This would go a long way in showing their commitment to the EAC integration.
Though Amina has urged an inquest into her loss at AU polls and especially an investigation into why Kenya’s neighbours abandoned her bid during the final round, the outcomes must not be allowed to hurt the EAC integration agenda.
The happenings at African Union elections must not outshine and overshadow the gains and the milestones that the EAC integration has brought to the regional citizens.
Currently, regional citizens are enjoying free movement of goods, people, labour and services across the partner states. East Africans can now work and sell their goods and services in any partner state with minimal restrictions. Movement of goods has especially eased as non-tariff barriers are slowly eliminated.
Through the Customs Union Protocol, trade across the region has significantly been enhanced as a result attracting a lot of foreign investment.
The single tourism visa across some partner states has greatly boosted the tourism sector as tourists acquire a single visa that allows them to visit any of the country under the single tourism visa arrangement.
The on-going harmonisation of higher education is enabling students to pursue their studies in any of the partner states knowing too well their certificates will be varied in any of the EAC country.
The integration agenda is at a critical stage where the region is working towards attainment of a common currency that will enable the citizens to transact their businesses with minimal fiscal challenges. The region is also working towards a united political federation- the ultimate goal of EAC regional integration- where all the partner states will form a super-state under a single political government.
These and many more gains and milestones must awaken our resolve to tenderly nurture the EAC integration. Any claims, rumours and suspicion of a possible fallout must quickly be resolved.
But even as the region looks into the possible reasons for the Amina’s loss, the region must re-evaluate her relations with other African countries. The decision by the 15 countries from the southern African block, SADC, to abstain from voting was unfortunate and the EAC region should take note of that. SADC, who perhaps abstained from voting in protest after their candidate from Botswana failed to make any progress in the preliminary rounds should have probably thrown their weight behind the EAC’s candidate considering our close ties.
It is disheartened that the elections at AU revealed deep rooted divisions among African countries, some of which are superficial like language. The French-speaking countries largely supported one candidate while the English-speaking countries’ votes were divided.
But even as the EAC region comes to term with the loss, supporting the incoming AU chair, Moussa Faki Mahamat is paramount. The region must recognise that the work ahead of him is immense. Supporting him in promoting peace, security and stability on the continent is key to economic growth of the EAC region.