BUWEMBO: Will the third phase EAC be lucky enough to avoid its political death?

Wednesday September 11 2019

We have lived to see EAC expand to six partner states plus several applicants waiting to join, yet we are now standing at its graveside as government undertakers hold their shovels ready for its burial. ILLUSTRATION | JOHN NYAGA | NMG


As the second phase of the East African Community comes to the end, we wait to see what shape the third phase will take.

These East African things tend to come in phases. In Tanzania, they actually use the word ‘‘phase,’’ whose Kiswahilli equivalent perfectly also rhymes perfectly with ‘‘phase.’’ I think they are now on the Fifth Phase government since Independence.

In Uganda I am not sure which phase we are in but Idi Amin always called his administration the Second Republic. But before the First Republic that started in 1967, the was the federal phase which was violent terminated in 1966.

I suppose the unstable years that followed Amin’s ouster constituted the fourth phase meaning we are now on the fifth phase as well.

Kenya should also be in its fifth phase as well, counting from the first multiparty days that ended in Kanu’s de facto single party monopoly of power.

The second phase ended after the August 1, 1992 coup attempt (shh. did anyone mark the anniversary a week ago?) ushering in the hard knuckle third phase of Kanu absolutism which instead gave rise to fantastic civil society organisation that forced the opening up to the resumption of multipartism as the fourth phase.


The rather wild multipartism ended in the 2007-08 bloodshed and a power-sharing compromise, finally yielding an idealistic constitution for the fifth phase dispensation.

These three countries had set up the first phase EAC in 1967 and killed it a decade later in 1977. A decade and a half later, they started a systematic recreation of a second phase EAC in a years’ long process.

We have lived to see EAC expand to six partner states plus several applicants waiting to join, yet we are now standing at its graveside as government undertakers hold their shovels ready for its burial.

The poor second EAC didn't even get to run common services like the first did with its ports and harbours and airline; and its legacy seems to be an anthem, flag and letting members states export their tribal petty politics and corruption to the secretariat in Arusha.

The time now is to ponder what shape the third phase EAC will take.

My estimation is that most of the 190 million plus citizens of the Community agree that the national governments are not the best custodians of the cherished regional community.

Our governments seem to be temperamental like a teenager, moody like a jilted lover, jealous like a divorcee and unforgiving like a witch.

Whoever will be responsible for crafting the third EAC must find a way of entrusting its operation and survival beyond the direct influence of the political states.

It is even tempting to suggest the religious bodies be the guarantors of the next cross-border entity. But then we have rather too many new religious bodies some with questionable motives. Some even purport to host Jesus Christ in body until the state justifiably deports him.

Maybe they should try the professional bodies, with the lawyers and businesspeople at the core. Even the basket funders like Trademark East Africa should find it less stressful dealing with the professional body than with governments.

Imagine all the time and money Trademark has put into eliminating trade barriers only for governments to keep putting them back firmly in place.

In Uganda we have a contrarian journalist called Timothy Kalyegira who has spent years trying to prove that the African is incapable of organising at the same level Americans and Europeans do.

Unfortunately he has adduced so much evidence which his opponents have not yet succeeded in countering. The organising of the third EAC phase should at least help disprove Kalyegira.

Joachim Buwembo is a Kampala-based journalist. Email:[email protected]