Integration: Create mechanism to address non-judicial disputes
Social integration within the EAC is unavoidable, but with it come non judicial/ political pitfalls that the EAC Court cannot resolve
Afew years ago, I attended East African Community meetings, hosted by the EAC Secretariat as part of the Kenya delegation. One meeting sought to develop an action plan for preventing and combating corruption while the other was specialists from member countries to develop a draft protocol on good governance.
During these meetings, participants lamented on the slow pace of progress, especially considering the subjects of discussion – anti-corruption and good governance – were issues that ordinarily one would not expect toil in finding points of convergence. It took us, for example, half a day to come up with a definition of good governance which was still not satisfactory to some member states.
During one of the breaks, I called aside the Head of Delegation of one of the member states for a tete a tete. I had perceived that the bottlenecks in the debates had nothing to do with the discussions but were informed by other circumstances beyond the formal engagements. True to my suspicion, I was given a candid and interesting narrative on why this particular Member State was hesitant to have the EAC dream realised faster.
The reasons were a cocktail of real to ostensible circumstances. Some were based on biased opinions formed from stereotypes, incorrect information that could not be verified or lessons learnt from previous engagements between member countries in their individual capacities. Some, however, were real circumstances containing truths that caused, perhaps rightly so, some unease. Nonetheless, it was factual that there were underlying fears and/or issues that threatened the whole idea of an EAC integration. It was due to these fears that this particular member country viewed the integration with scepticism and thus brought up blockages at every turn to build up to the intended objective of slowing down the integration process.
The lesson here was that whether the qualms were justified or not, whether they were based on truism or perception, they had the real potential of nixing the EAC dream. They therefore were issues that somehow had to be brought to the fore and dealt with before they metamorphosed into a can of worms that would turn difficult to handle. As I thought about it, it dawned on me that there was no body or institution that had been established by the EAC to deal with such issues.
The truth is, such matters, even if based on perceptions or biased opinions, have the potential of slowing down the economic and social integration of the East African Community or bringing it to a screeching halt. The question we should ask ourselves is, can such issues be matters that a State can freely discuss and lay their fears bare for all and sundry? And if so, are they matters that can be the basis of a dispute that would then be within the