Daniel Toroitich Arap Moi, the former Kenyan president who died on Monday aged 95 years, played a critical role in the revival of the collapsed East African Community.
Moi also fought hard for the formation of the Common Market for Eastern and Southern African countries (Comesa).
Opinion is divided, however, as to whether his role in the revival of the EAC had more to do with his personal political survival in Kenya or the welfare of the region.
Erastus Mwencha, the immediate former deputy chairperson of the African Union Commission who was also the first Secretary-General of Comesa, describes Moi as a pan-Africanist who believed in the formation of a single, common market in Africa.
He says Moi participated in the revival of the EAC to create a market for Kenyan goods, but was also passionate uniting all African countries for economic gain.
He likens Moi’s passion for a united Africa to that of the founding fathers of the then Organisation of African Union (OAU, now African Union) including Ghana’s Kwame Nkrumah, Kenya’s Jomo Kenyatta and Tanzania’s Julius Nyerere.
“Starved of resources and denied donor funds by the Bretton-Woods institutions in the early 1990s, Kenya’s second president turned to Africa to unite with a view of forming a large market for Kenya’s goods,” said Mwencha in an interview.
Mwencha is currently the Chair of the African Capacity Building Foundation (ACBF) executive board, a specialised agency of the African Union.
The EAC was dissolved in 1977 due to ideological differences between the three founding partner States Kenya, Uganda and Tanzania.
Mwencha observes that during this period, introduction of Structural Adjustment Programmes (SAPS) had caused havoc on the Kenyan economy, undermining food security and self-reliance.
The SAPS also led to unsustainable resource exploitation, environmental destruction, population dislocation and displacement.
In a bid to look within Africa for solutions, President Moi mobilised his fellow heads of states and rallied them to unite.
“West Africa had just formed the Economic Community of West African States (Ecowas) in 1975, to promote economic integration among its members (15 countries),” said Mwencha.
“The west did not pay much attention to Africa and Moi often reminded us that “the wazungus” did not care much about Africans. Moi wanted to a common market in order to allow the free movement of goods, capital and labour within the sub region, as a way of dealing with the frustrations of the World Bank and IMF’s economic sanctions.”
President Moi rallied a number of African countries including Malawi, Zambia, Uganda, Tanzania, Ethiopia among others to look for ways in which to import and export our goods within the region following the collapse of the EAC.
His efforts paid off once he was elected to chair the then OAU in the early 1980s.
He says Moi used the opportunity to rally African countries to see the need to unite and create a single market in the East, Central, and Southern Africa region, which eventually led to the formation of Comesa as well as the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (Igad).
“Moi together with other EAC heads of state from Southern Africa successfully negotiated a treaty for the establishment of the Preferential Trade Area for Eastern and Southern Africa,” says Mwencha.
“It is at this stage that he started talking to the then President Milton Obote of Uganda and Hassan Mwinyi of Tanzania with the idea of reviving the EAC.”
Subsequent meetings of the three Heads of State led to the signing of the Agreement for the Establishment of the Permanent Tripartite Commission for East African Co-operation on November 30, 1993.
“Moi initiated the process and was therefore the chairman of the summit before and after revival of the EAC,” said Ambassador Francis Muthaura, who was the first Secretary General of the EAC at its revival in 1999.
Full East African Co-operation operations started on March 14, 1996, when the Secretariat of the Permanent Tripartite Commission was launched at the EAC headquarters in Arusha, Tanzania.
The three East African Heads of State, led by Moi, Uganda’s Yoweri Museveni, and Tanzania’s Benjamin Mkapa at the 2nd Summit in Arusha on April 29, 1997 directed the Permanent Tripartite Commission to start the process of upgrading the Agreement establishing the Permanent Tripartite Commission for East African Co-operation into a Treaty.
“He personally negotiated with the German government to improve the capacity of the EAC secretariat as well as funding for the construction of the EAC offices in Arusha,” says Mr Muthaura.
The private sector would turn out to be the biggest beneficiary of the EAC’s revival.
“As one of the key Founding Fathers of the revival of the East African Community, he spearheaded the Agreement for the Establishment of the Permanent Tripartite Commission for East African Co-operation in 1993, leading to the rebirth of the EAC regional integration process,” says Dr Peter Mathuki, chief executive officer at the East African Business Council (EABC).