OBBO: Secretariat? The EAC can be run with a mobile app

Saturday August 17 2019

The East African Community Secretary-General Liberat Mfumukeko.

The East African Community Secretary-General Liberat Mfumukeko. Some EAC staff in Arusha have deserted their work stations “as a cash crunch continues to bite due to delayed remittances by the partner states. PHOTO | COURTESY 

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Last week, The EastAfrican told us that the perennially lousy finances of the East African Community Secretariat are even messier this time around. Some EAC staff in Arusha have deserted their work stations “as a cash crunch continues to bite due to delayed remittances by the partner states.”

“The Secretariat has recently faced difficulties in paying salaries and allowances while some programmes have had to be suspended. The East African Court of Justice, for example, has suspended the August session of the Appellate Division because of lack of funds. And July salaries for the East African Legislative Assembly were yet to be paid by press time.


“In the current financial year, each of the six partner states is supposed to contribute $8,371,320. But they all have outstanding remittances, with Burundi and South Sudan having not paid up at all.

“The July salaries were drawn from money paid by Uganda to cover arrears for the 2018/19 financial year…

“By June this year, Uganda had an outstanding contribution of over $2 million; Burundi $6.3 million; Kenya $160,653, Rwanda over $1 million, South Sudan $19.3 million and Tanzania $957,832…


“Burundi owes the Inter-University Council of East Africa over $5.6 million for 2017/18 and earlier; Kenya $6,168; Rwanda $2.8 million; South Sudan $2.1 million; Tanzania $2.4 million; and Uganda $3.4 million” …and on, and on.

Surprise, surprise, that Kenya is the best performer, with its arrears being change money.

This is striking because, excluding troubled South Sudan and Burundi, of the other four members, Kenya is the least pan-African chest-thumping member. Uganda – or at least President Yoweri Museveni – is the great pan-Africanist and East African political federation champion, but clearly, he won’t put his money where his mouth is.


Maybe he shouldn’t. The unique thing about the EAC is that it really doesn’t desperately need the Secretariat, or governments, for the most important elements of it – free movement and trade – to work. The modern Community was just layered over a long-standing network of trade, free movement, common cultural links, and even shared Christian religious provinces through most of the 20th Century.

Second, compared with the other regional blocs, the EAC is small. The Southern African Development Community has 16 members and the Economic Community of West African States is made up of 15-member countries. The EAC is just six member states, and if you consider that South Sudan and Burundi are no better than half-members, then we are just five.

It is actually possible to run the EAC on a mobile phone app. Most of the critical foundation issues, including a common passport and one-stop border posts, have largely been done. Three of the members – Uganda, Burundi and Rwanda – are small countries. A Goliath can stand in Kampala and spit across Rwanda to the Burundi capital Bujumbura.

There is still work to be done. There is a need to have a stabilisation mechanism to reduce the disruptive diplomatic wars between some members. Some see a case for work towards a political federation, and a common currency.

But that is looking for EAC deluxe. Right now, there’s EAC standard that works reasonably well. One can’t help but suspect that the governments can deliberately afford to be delinquent when it comes to their financial contributions, because they know the critical aspects of the EAC will still work.

Charles Onyango-Obbo is publisher of data visualiser Africapaedia and Rogue Chiefs. [email protected]