A key lesson for EAC integration

Tuesday December 4 2018

Kasera Nick Oyoo is a research and

Kasera Nick Oyoo is a research and communications consultant with Midas Touché East Africa 

By Kasera Nick Oyoo midastea@gmail.com

It’s that time again when the regional integration agenda of the East African Community (EAC) comes out of the dust-covered shelves and thrusts itself onto our front yards demanding to be given audience.

After about 11 months of endless and mindless bickering over things as mundane as a few thousand chicks set ablaze to make a point and nationalisation of a few hundred head of cattle, Tanzanian and Kenyan heads of state made some useful noise about how these two nations need each other.

The noises were, however, superseded by what transpired during the first ever three-day Blue Economy global conference held in Nairobi, Kenya and which was sponsored by the governments of Kenya, Canada and Japan.

Key and worthy noting for East African countries was the call that what is globally shared-rivers waters lakes, seas and oceans-must be globally be cared for.

There are lessons of immense proportions to be drawn for Kenya, Tanzania, Uganda and other East African states, considering the amount of time and energy that has been spent, not to mention the resources that have gone to waste as these countries officially battled over uses of lakes, rivers even the Indian Ocean.

This column has repeatedly called for sobriety on matters to do with the welfare of all East Africans. Sadly, narrow political interest has been an impediment to the sustainable use not just of the so-called Blue Economy of shared waters, but also other resources like minerals, flora and fauna, inconsistent with what reality and scientific evidence would suggest.

From the never-ending quarrels over Migingo Islands to the untouchable and thorny issue as to whether the lake that borders Tanzania and Malawi is called Nyasa or Malawi, there has been enough petty quarrel much similar to siblings fighting over toys, than there has been energy and thought put into exploring the use and heritage of the many water bodies of the region.

East Africa is most richly endowed with flora and fauna. To begin with, the region does not have a think tank blessed with its best brains sons and daughters whose task would be to study the comparative advantages of the region working together on the very questions of socio-economic welfare and knowledge based information that would give the region a futuristic comparative advantage.

The fate of the region has, much like its many sea going vessels that collapse and cause death of passengers with disturbing regularity, been left to the fate of blood suckling political whales if you may.

This cadre obsesses with the politics of survival for the here and now. It is their only raison d’etre for survival. Approaching 60 years after independence and knowing the importance of Lake Victoria to the over 40m East Africans that live and depend on the lake and its basis for survival, political self-interest has all but stopped Tanzania, Kenya and Uganda from having a revolutionary approach of how to use the lake.

Today, each to their own. The more knowledge gets generated (by so-called development partners) the more those 3 spend time and resources all but ignoring the conservation needs of the lake and bickering over who owns which part while regularly pouncing arresting and sending to jail petty fishermen whose only crime is seeking a livelihood.

Indeed, it was instrumental that when Presidents Dr Magufuli and Uhuru Kenyatta met in Namanga , the both of them seemed to be eager to speak with sobriety on the matter of residents of the border strip between the two countries.

Instrumental in that endless nationalization of livestock herds and jail terms, are only but temporary solutions to the long term need of sustainable use of the Rift Valley basin that is home to Longido all the way to Lake Chala on the Tanzanian side and Kajiado to Taveta on the Kenya side.

Sometimes one wonders are we teaching too much of the political history of liberation complete with embellished falsification of national heroes at the expense of the geography and scientific evidence necessary for survival for flora and fauna for the sustainable use of resources for the future?

Kasera Nick Oyoo is a research and communications consultant with Midas Touché East Africa. He can be reached on midastea@gmail.com