The future of the East African Community (EAC) was once again put to test after some member States were reported to have voted against Kenya’s Amina Mohamed for top African Union post, this week.
During the 28th Ordinary Summit of the Assembly of Heads of State and Government of the African Union in Addis Ababa some EAC member states reportedly broke ranks with their peers, voting for Chad’s Moussa Faki Mahammat for the Chair of the African Union Commission, a decision that might have cost Kenya the seat.
The reaction from a section of Kenyan politicians unschooled on matters diplomacy exposed the underbelly of the EAC.
Unable to conceal their disbelief in diplomatic mien, Kenyan politicians led by Leader of Majority in National Assembly Aden Duale accused some of Kenya’s “neighbours” of betrayal, fanning a deep-seated suspicion that has often times threatened to tear the community apart.
Even Ms Amina herself whose 30 years in the diplomatic circles has contributed to her unwavering diplomatic language blurted out: “Appearances are deceptive,” in a veiled attack on Kenya’s friends that had suddenly turned against her at this hour of need.
Kenya had put together one of the finest campaign juggernauts to have ever been witnessed at the corridors of the AU headquarters in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.
Kenya is rumored to have spent quite a fortune, and was convinced the AU’s voting was but a formality that delayed their celebrations.
However, “things fell apart at the last round,” according to Ms Amina. ALSO READ: Amina defeat blow to Jubilee and not a national tragedy One of Amina’s statements revealed how cagy relations among member states of EAC are: “Are we seen as a friend or a threat?” The general feeling among some observers is that after a sustained period in which Kenya has industrialised faster than its peers, there have been attempts from other EAC member states to put brakes on Kenya’s further growth.
On Wednesday, a day after the voting, Uganda issued a statement in an attempt to put the record straight. Kampala insisted that its support for Ms Amina was undisputable.
Its foreign affair ministry repudiated what it termed as “unsubstantiated information” awash in the media. “Uganda wishes to state categorically that our support to the candidature of Amb. (Dr) Amina Chawahir Mohamed, before and during elections yesterday, was unequivocal.
This was premised on the fact that Uganda enjoys excellent bilateral relations with the sister country and that Amb Mohamed an endorsed East African candidate. Uganda, therefore, rejects any baseless assertions by some sections of the media questioning our commitment to the said candidate,” said Uganda’s foreign affairs ministry in a statement.
Besides Uganda, Burundi and Djibouti are rumour that they voted against Kenya. Of course, Ms Amina also later on clarified that the result would not affect Kenya’s relationship with its neighbours.
“We have learned a great lesson. However, this is not going to affect the relationship we have with them.
We need to get that right,” said Mohamed when she returned to Kenya. But this might have come in too late. Conjectures and insinuations were already flying around, leaving the impression that Kenya had once again had been isolated.
Charles Onyango-Obbo, a columnist with one of the local dailies in one of his witty Op-eds, said the event exposed the existence of the ‘other’ EAC in which relations amongst the member states were kept at arm’s length. Mr Obbo sought to paint a picture of a regional community whose members capitalised on the misfortune of the other.
He gave the example of Kenya Airways which was “born out of pillaging the assets of East African Airways when the first community collapsed in the 1970s.” Moreover, “Kenyan businessmen grew rich through smuggling, and underhand dealing in Ugandan coffee” during the misrule of Idi Amin, according to Obbo.
The EAC has, of course, been one of the most integrated trading blocs relative to the others, according to an index created by the African Development Bank, the African Union Commission and the Economic Commission for Africa. , there is not much the community has achieved since its inception 20-years ago.
According to a recent report by the International Monetary Fund, implementation of the customs union and the common market have not led to “a major increase in economic and financial integration”, with the trade bloc’s member countries still looking far and wide for their imports. East Africans still prefer to do most of their trade with other non-East Africans despite the deep integration. “The share of intra-EAC imports in total imports has not increased in the past 15 years and most imports continue to come from outside sub-Saharan Africa,” says the report, which found that more than 85 per cent of total imports into the region come from outside the EAC.
Sometimes last year, things worsened when Rwanda and Uganda were reported to have delinked their standard gauge railway (SGR) from Kenya’s, threatening the viability of Kenya’s most expansive project ever.
Around the same time, Uganda resolved to re-route its crude oil pipeline through Tanzania throwing into a tailspin Kenya’s Lamu Port-South Sudan-Ethiopia-Transport (LAPSSET). Moreover, relations between Kenya and Tanzania at the time were anything but cordial with the latter chickening out of the Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA) between EAC and the European Union. Kenya has seen Tanzania’s role in EPA debacle as that of a saboteur. Whereas Tanzania which is still categorised as a least developed country (LCD) will not suffer from increased duties should the economic pact not be ratified, Kenya’s exports to the EU including flowers are likely to be slapped with punitive taxes of as much as 20 per cent. It has been a tough call for Kenya, and sometimes it has been left with a bitter feeling that its neighbors were conspiring against to bring it down.
The vote against Ms Amina by Uganda is just one in many instances when EAC member states have stabbed Kenya in the back. The election of Moussa Faki Mahammat from poor, little-known Chad, the favorite Amina all but confirmed the feeling among some cynics in Kenya that it was hated by some of its neighbours.
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