When the chips are finally down, East Africans must learn to live in harmony with one another. They must learn to do honourable politics and to accept the fact that no one individual or group of individuals has monopoly over the affairs of state. But when we look at political leadership in the region, the main feeling is that a few individuals think they are the state and the state is them.
I have often wondered whether the people responsible for the collapse of the former East African Community (EAC) actually owe an apology to East Africans for allowing their narrow selfish interests to ride high and tall over those of the citizens of the region. Those people, some still living, toasted champagne when common institutions of the former EAC were brought to a halt.
Professor Wadada Nabudere was well known for his views that the former EAC did not breakup because of political differences between Mwalimu Julius Nyerere and Dictator Idi Amin, whom Mwalimu refused to recognise as the head of state of Uganda. Neither did the former EAC breakup because Tanzania was socialist and Kenya capitalist. The real reason for the breakup, according to Professor Nabudere, was the huge imbalance in trade, which for historical reasons favoured Kenya.
Those elements in Kenya who thought were self sufficient without realising they were only a cog in the multinational setup to exploit the weak, felt Kenya could go it alone and thus toasted champagne when 50 years of regional co-operation went up in the air. Thank God from the ashes of 1977, East Africans have again erected an even firmer house for shared destiny.
But must those who torched the former house continue to play the heroes also in both eras? I know of course that most of them have undergone highly diminished political clout but the fact that they are still living has a huge impact. I believe without exorcising that ghost, without purging that spirit, East African cooperation shall always be built on shaky ground.
Monetary union will probably be the hardest next stage of the regional integration process. Yet, we had common currency until 1966, before another major shake up in regional co operation because the partners felt the benefits were not equitably shared.
The politics of East African co operation are up and until this time, centred on demands for equal benefits. External threats to existence without unity become irrelevant where no strong perceptions for equal benefits first before that unity.
That is why I strongly believe that the individuals who caused the collapse of the EAC in 1977 should apologize to East Africans. Such act would wipe the plate clean as the people shall have learnt to always look back to their past mistakes whenever they wanted to waver from their strong foundations.
Paradoxically, it was a good thing that the former EAC actually broke up for that experience, if we be men and women of goodwill, will always serve as the reference point for not making similar mistake.
The individuals who know themselves should not feel slighted by this but seize the opportunity to own up to their former mistakes. It is so humanely in deed but so heavenly in character!