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EAC Heads of State not Interested in Regional Peace


The East African Community (EAC) Heads of State Summit was held yesterday and the "big news" that emerged from the EAC Capital of Arusha, Tanzania was the admission of South Sudan to the community. Of course there were other pronouncements such as that on the need to deepen cooperation on peace and security as well as the appointment of former Tanzanian President Benjamin Mkapa to 'assist' Uganda's Yoweri Museveni in the Burundi peace talks still on a stalemate. Obviously I have never been able to understand why Museveni was appointed the AU backed EAC Mediator for Burundi. I mean, Mr. Museveni has been busy leading an electoral coup is his country. He is too busy harassing political opposition leaders and journalists in Uganda to ever find time to think about Burundi, leave alone leading a mediation process. The most logical thing that the EAC heads of state summit could have done is perhaps to drop Museveni as the mediator and replace him with Mkapa. Simple and straightforward. But then who again said that these people care about peace? Are they really interested in regional peace? 

It is easier to determine where the hearts of the EAC leaders are; definitely not in peace. They are instead, interested in the markets. It is about economy; about money. Full stop. How do we know this. One: there was no Burundi in the main agenda for the EAC heads of state summit. Actually featuring of Burundi was through the civil society action and petitions, otherwise the heads of state had no business talking about Burundi. It did not matter a thing to them that Burundians have been dying in their numbers and that hundreds of thousands are have fled home. When it comes to South Sudan, it is interesting how the summit focussed on opening up the market as opposed to talking about how best to help South Sudan overcome the ongoing political challenges that continue to cause sufferings to many people in South Sudan. As we speak South Sudan has one of the most serious humanitarian crisis in the world and as many as 50,000 people are said to have been killed in the conflict that started in 2013. But the EAC leaders did not see this a  matter of precedence and urgency, instead they so focused on how the admission of South Sudan to the EAC has opened up the market and made it huge for significant trade.  

These things are not new in the region. Looking at the EAC blueprint launched late last year one will not help but wonder how a region so volatile can spend 48 pages in a 50 page documents talking about economy and development and only two on peace. But then again are the EAC leaders really interested in regional peace? No, they are not. Theirs is about economy, the market and business and money, after all, they are in business among themselves. 

Such pronouncements like the need to deepen regional cooperation on security and peace within the EAC often end at that; pronouncements. The civil society must wake up to the fact that the EAC leaders are not interested in any regional peace. It is therefore largely at their call to lead action for peace and sustainability in the region. The heads of state cannot be trusted and they have clearly shown why they should not be.

But then again is there civil society in this region? Obviously in Rwanda and Burundi there is not active civil society since the regimes have suffocated them. In Uganda the civil society operates in one of the most precarious environments of our time. It is proving resilient but then it remains practically dangerous being an active member of civil society in Uganda. Tanzania is never known for any strong civil society action, partly because of its post independence environment of relative peace and stability of governance and transition but one that has significantly changed in recent days calling for need to structure and strengthen the civil society. Kenya used to be the leader in civil society until when the country got leaders standing trial internationally and they turned their wrath on the civil society successfully labelling it the evil society. Today Kenya's civil society space is shrinking at unrivalled speed. 

In this case who will help the citizens of the region? I always think that the people have nowhere to turn to other than unto themselves. We need to invoke people power. The people need to understand their power and effectively utilize it for their survival otherwise these so called leaders will swallow the masses alive. Let what happened in Arusha be a wake up call to the people of the region to begin thinking more seriously about things that matter to them; security and peace. These things should be guaranteed by the leaders but leaders are busy with markets, business and money; they never mind the death of few many citizens, after all, they would have comprehensively tackled the Burundi and South Sudan crises before even jubilating about the entry of South Sudan to the EAC. 
EAC Heads of State not Interested in Regional Peace EAC Heads of State not Interested in Regional Peace Reviewed by Ibrahim Magara on March 03, 2016 Rating: 5

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