If there is anything East Africans cherish, it is the colonial borders they were bequeathed between 1961 and 1963. They can kill for these borders with a passion. Their passion for the borders, which they inherited from their foster mum Auntie Bettie (who died six months ago) borders on amorous passion.
At times, Kenya and Tanzania vie for Uganda’s business like two guys, Kenny and Tangie, fighting over a girl called Yuggie.
It was like Auntie Bettie had convinced the three that they were siblings, so Yuggie wasn’t bothered that she had no house, as she kept sharing Kenny’s in Mombasa without a problem. She found Tangie’s house at Dar rather far and only occasionally visited it.
Not blood relations
But, as they grew up, they discovered they were not blood relations, so Kenny proposed. But Tangie had also developed feelings for Yuggie and also proposed. He even offered to build her a house at Tanga, which was nearer for her, and gave her the title deed. She ditched Kenny.
Then word of her fertile farmlands spread and other suitors came, including fair-skinned Ali from Algiers in the far north. He didn’t even waste time and made her pregnant. A scan showed they were expecting a baby girl, whom they named Milkah, even before she was born, and Yuggie sneered at Kenny, saying that Ali had done in a day what he had failed to do for years.
She then declared that whoever wants to step on her land had better behave in a way she approves, because she is now valued and respected.
Similarly, hardening positions and unhealthy competition are becoming the order of the day between even the best of friends among East African Community member states.
Uganda, which was the glue that invited and bound the members together for the past three decades, is becoming keener on growing its markets outside the common market and recently flaunted its new milk customer, Algeria, generally telling Kenya that the days of pleading with Nairobi to stop blocking its milk products and foods are over.
As for member states who aren’t friends, tensions are high and some shootings at the (cherished) borders have been reported, either directly or by rebel groups.
A regional force is deployed somewhere, a foreign force has been bilaterally invited and a few hundred mercenaries from very far are also reportedly on the ground.
Such is the state of the Community that is supposed to deliver a common currency and build a central bank in a couple of years, as a political federation follows on the heels.
If it were a script of fiction, the editor would just throw it back at the writer. Too unconvincing, the editor would firmly write on it — in red.
There is a recently renewed regional parliament in Arusha, known as the East African Legislative Assembly (EALA). It is not even expected to break new ground, rather, it is meant to oversee the implementation of preceding houses’ policies.
They don’t need to waste a coin on bench-marking trips overseas, or doing research inland. They don’t have to engage in ostentatious expenditures by convening in different countries, and staging “honourable” football matches. They know what is required of them and just need to do it.
The current cohort of EALA legislators could even be the last ones, for if they don’t do a good job, the entire community could be exposed and judged as irrelevant to the people.
Could they, maybe honestly, declare that the goals set for the EAC were too ambitious and need to be lowered to manageable levels that can be attained by weak societies and systems?
If they don’t do that, the people could abandon the community, not by rebelling but by ignoring it.
And social media will treat it like Yuggie did Kenny — saying it failed to make a fertile place conceive.
Buwembo is a Kampala-based journalist. E-mail: [email protected]