Talk… talk… talk… that’s what the EAC summit is meant for, right?

21Feb 2016
Isaac Mwangi
Guardian On Sunday
Ea Whispers
Talk… talk… talk… that’s what the EAC summit is meant for, right?

The next Summit of EAC heads of state is just around the corner: This exclusive club of the region’s Big Men is due to meet in Arusha on 29 February, and we can expect more of the same menu they have served us over the years.

In fact, one can predict with a great measure of accuracy the communique that will come out of that meeting. Of course, that communique is already done and only needs a little fine-tuning by bureaucrats to read as nicely and polished as befits a statement from a heads of state summit. The content, regrettably, will fall far short of expectation.

There will be the usual diplomatic niceties – big words that say nothing, really. A lot of honorifics to inflate the egos of all involved won’t do any harm – their Excellency’s, Ambassadors, and the like can have their hour of recognition.

Of course, the menu will also include a word of appreciation to the host for the hospitality and warm reception – simply a way of appreciating the fatty buffets and fine wine that would have graced their tables and those of their delegations, insulating them from the hunger and hopelessness that is everywhere in the region.

Naturally, each of the Big Men attending the summit will be accorded their moment of glory before the cameras. They will give words of wisdom about the importance of the integration process and the gains that have been made. They will express their unwavering commitment to the regional integration agenda.

The foursome – or five of them if Burundi’s Pierre Nkurunziza’s decides to attend – will neglect to mention the many areas where their governments have failed to live up to expectations in forging regional initiatives. They will instead sweep some of those failings under the carpet, while promising to act on others.

From the agenda coming out of the EAC Secretariat, it is highly unlikely that they will say anything on the stalled implementation of the East African Monetary Union Protocol signed in Kampala in December 2013. The Monetary Union, which is meant to culminate in a single regime in 2024, will remain a pipedream.

In any case, it is impossible to have a Monetary Union without a Customs Union and operational Common Market, yet even these preliminaries remain unresolved.

It is expected that the Summit will have quite a bit to say about security, mainly showcasing their commitment to regional peace. They will decry the growing threat of terrorism – which, understandably, we all stand against – and rededicate themselves to fighting all forms of crime. They will have something for transnational crime and religious fundamentalism, and perhaps even spare a word for cybercrime.

But they will be silent about the crimes and injustices committed against their own citizens – the violent break-up of demonstrations, the reckless use of firearms by law enforcers on poor workers and peasants, the thwarting of the democratic process through electoral malpractice, and the wanton greed with which national coffers are being looted.

Granted, not all of them are guilty in equal measure for these crimes against their own people. But those among them who stand innocent of some of these excesses will not want to antagonize the black sheep in their midst. They will, after all, be outnumbered.

And that being the case, there will be no shot in the arm for resolving the political crisis in Burundi. Neither will they seek to discuss the political weaknesses in their own systems. Still, their communique will speak of a distant vision for a political federation – for which they may well form one committee or the other to prepare some ill-defined groundwork.

Casting their eyes farther afield, the Summit will as usual say that the situation in Somalia does not allow for a verification of its application to join the Community, and consequently postpone this matter for consideration at its next Summit in November.

South Sudan will receive a better hearing, but even here the decision will be pushed to November to allow the parties in that country’s conflict to first resolve their differences.

There will, to be fair, be a few gains. Some of the non-tariff barriers will be resolved – and a few weeks or months later these will be replaced by even more non-tariff barriers that will be the subject of the summit in November. And the circus goes on…

East African News Agency