The 21st East African Community (EAC) Heads of State Summit, which was scheduled for February 29, 2020, was postponed allegedly due to lack of quorum, the same reason that had postponed it on November 30 last year.
EAC Secretary Liberat Mfumukeko had also postponed the 41st Extra-Ordinary Meeting of the EAC Council of Ministers scheduled to take place from February 25, 2020 at the EAC Headquarters in Arusha.
These developments came even before the Coronavirus disease had set foot in the EAC member states. And when it did there seems to be no coordinating efforts in confronting the epidemic and its spread through the countries land borders, such as pooling their resources in placing the epidemic under control.
Is the unruffled state of affairs due to the great sin committed by the leaders of the old East African Community (old-EAC) to let the bloc die in 1977 after just 10 years of its existence?
The old-EAC inherited the functions of the East African Common Services Organization (EACSO) that was set up soon after the three African countries – Tanzania, Kenya and Uganda gained their independence from the British.
The EACSO inherited the East African High Commission (EAHC) – an international colonial institution which existed between January 1948 and December 1961 with the intention of providing common services to the British administered Uganda, Kenya and Tanganyika.
The EAHC comprised the Governors of the three territories and met two or three times a year under the chairmanship of the Governor of Kenya – and not once or none at all as is the case now in regard to EA Summit meetings.
We therefore cannot avoid being accused of having destroyed a good thing that was handed to us on a silver platter by the British.
One might say it was among rare tributes from the colonial power – ‘unite and quit’ instead of the customary ‘divide and quit’ – a la the Indian subcontinent 20 years earlier.
We say this because the old-EAC was, and is still unique among the world’s economic-political regional blocs – in fact more than the present day European Union (EU).
Not only the people of the three countries had a common currency and import tariff, but also ran joint services in railways, airways, ports and posts and telecommunications.
There were also joint research institutes such as that for malaria and fisheries, to name but a few. There was also a single court of appeal, the East African Court of Appeal.
So anyone in the right mind would not even consider of wrecking such a union. But that is what sadly happened, and we believe it was due to weak political harmonization found in the old-EAC structure and lack of push from above.
However one issue – the establishment, nine years ago, of a regional sectoral council for political affairs to handle good governance issues was commendable as it allows for speedy decisions on political affairs as these are deemed important and sensitive issues in the region's political integration agenda.
The conduct of elections in particular – a very sensitive issue in virtually all governments of the partner states was to find a permanent solution through the Good Governance Protocol.
But as we have seen the Protocol can hardly claim to have scored much success if we consider events in Burundi and South Sudan.