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By JOACHIM BUWEMBO
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Our people in Arusha are very clever. It has taken me 25 years – a quarter of a century – to realise and now I take off my hat to them.

On November 30, 1993, I was a bright-eyed young journalist when the treaty creating the Tripartite Commission for East African Co-operation was signed by the three presidents of East Africa then: Daniel arap Moi of Kenya, Ali Hassan Mwinyi of Tanzania and Yoweri Museveni of Uganda.

It was a truly exciting moment as older people talked of the golden days of the first East African Community. Some of us had a vague recollection of the common services of that defunct EAC that collapsed in 1977. With the new spirit under the Treaty, we were sure the good times were coming back.

Things started happening rapidly after the signing of the Treaty. A year later, The EastAfrican newspaper (independent of the EAC) was launched and nothing was going to stop me joining the novel publication. I did, and soon enough became its Uganda bureau chief and even after getting other jobs and eventually retiring from active reporting, I have never left the TEA table.

The EAC was fully re-established in 2000 [signing of the treaty re-establishing it was done on November 30, 1999]. Rwanda and Burundi were admitted and then South Sudan. The East African federation is being worked on.

Some years back, there was serious talk of a common currency and we had thought it would be the highlight of ndugu Richard Sezibera’s secretary generalship. It didn’t happen.

At the silver jubilee of that momentous signing on November 30, 2018, there was no party. The talk we were getting from Arusha was all about the failure to meet by six men who constitute the EAC Heads of State Summit (older people fondly call it the East African Authority). The six guys have presidential jets, many assistants to plan schedules and ensure they can meet at least once a year, but they are not succeeding.

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In Arusha itself, the regional parliament has been bickering over such juvenile issues as who “eats” what post. Former Speaker Margaret Zziwa recently defeated them in court for throwing her out for, among other things, “knocking the floor loudly with her high-heeled shoes.”

There are stories of impropriety by Secretariat staff. These seemingly embarrassing developments can only be the work of clever people who love East Africa and are determined to protect it from external exploitation.

When the Tripartite Treaty was being negotiated, it took curiously long as different loopholes would emerge from time to time that made it possible for external forces to exploit the East African economic bloc.

With controlled fury, Uganda’s Yoweri Museveni is said to have laid down an ultimatum: That if the EAC was to make it easier for outsiders to exploit East Africans when put together, then it would be better to forget the whole Community affair and make it harder for outsiders to exploit. Thus a good Treaty was signed.

Still, with the passing of time, the feared scenario of outside forces exploiting a united East Africa is looming once again. As sugar from Brazil and rice from the Far East mock the Customs Union, huge tricky loans from outsiders that can compromise Independence are being urgently offered…

So, when the men and women of Arusha seem to be doing a sloppy job, we had better cheer them on. They are making it harder for an outsider to grab six disjointed railway systems than one integrated EA Railways. Imagine how easily they would have colonised us economically if the Monetary Union had worked!

Don’t even pray for a monetary authority. Even its champion Richard Sezibera moved on and is now a bigger fish in a smaller pond. Long live the Arusha patriots protecting us from East African Unity!

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