LET BU­RUNDI GO...

... Af­ter all, writes Charles Onyan­goobbo, we can re­marry.

The East African - - NEWS - CHARLES ONYANGO-OBBO Charles Onyango-obbo is pub­lisher of data vi­su­aliser Afr­ica­pae­dia and Rogue Chiefs. Twit­[email protected]

The past few days brought a lot of sour news about the East African Com­mu­nity.

A sum­mit of the EAC in Arusha, last Fri­day, flopped be­cause there was no quo­rum! This hap­pened af­ter Bu­rundi boy­cotted it.

Pres­i­dent Pierre Nku­run­z­iza doesn’t travel to EAC or any other meet­ings out­side Bu­rundi since he sur­vived a coup in 2015, but didn’t even send a rep­re­sen­ta­tive this time, af­ter throw­ing a tantrum about the short no­tice for the sum­mit, and the re­fusal by the chair, Uganda’s Yow­eri Mu­sev­eni, to post­pone it.

Mu­sev­eni, rightly, ar­gued that the sched­ule of sum­mits is agreed months ahead, so there is noth­ing like “short no­tice.”

Now Mu­sev­eni is such a no­to­ri­ously bad time­keeper, that when he has to lecture you about no­tice and time, then you are a lost cause.

In the end, only the host, Tan­za­nia’s John Magu­fuli, Kenya’s Pres­i­dent Uhuru Keny­atta, and Mu­sev­eni pitched up in Arusha. Rwanda’s Pres­i­dent Paul Kagame had a good ex­cuse to be ab­sent – he was away in Ber­lin at the G20 rep­re­sent­ing Africa as the African Union pres­i­dent.

In land size, the EAC is re­ally only a small part of Africa. On the con­ti­nen­tal scale, we couldn’t or­gan­ise the equiv­a­lent of a small vil­lage meet­ing.

Worse news fol­lowed a few days later, with The Eastafrican re­port­ing that de­lays in re­mit­tance of sub­scrip­tions by the EAC part­ner states, “have left the Sec­re­tar­iat with a $1.4 bil­lion bud­getary hole.

“Kenya and Uganda are the ones sus­tain­ing the op­er­a­tions of the Sec­re­tar­iat,” it re­ported, al­though that is be­cause in a sit­u­a­tion where some mem­bers like Bu­rundi and South Su­dan haven’t paid for a long time, they are rel­a­tively more reg­u­lar pay­ers and write big­ger cheques, so their con­tri­bu­tion makes more noise. Oth­er­wise so, if they too are be­hind.

The ques­tion is be­ing asked, again, whether it was the right de­ci­sion to ad­mit Bu­rundi and South Su­dan. Yes, it was. You can­not have a re­gional bloc of the suc­cess­ful only.

In fact, one of the ar­gu­ments for re­gional in­te­gra­tion is that it can help sta­bilise trou­bled na­tions, and thus cre­ate a wider, more pros­per­ous and more peace­ful neigh­bour­hood, which in turn helps all mem­bers to flour­ish.

How­ever, it can­not be de­nied that it has been very dif­fi­cult for the EAC to di­gest, es­pe­cially, Bu­rundi and South Su­dan.

The dif­fer­ence is that while South Su­dan has its in­ter­nal prob­lems, its pol­i­tics is not fun­da­men­tally op­posed to that of any of its EAC neigh­bours. One can see Kenya and Uganda squab­bling, but at least they are eas­ily rec­on­cil­able.

Tan­za­nia and Kenya have his­tor­i­cally had se­ri­ous episodes of bad blood. How­ever, in the past 30 years, there have emerged com­mer­cial and geopo­lit­i­cal forces in Kenya that will sue for ac­com­mo­da­tion or pa­tience with Tan­za­nia. They are big pic­ture fel­lows.

That pres­sure-valve mech­a­nism doesn’t ex­ist be­tween Bu­rundi and Rwanda. How­ever, it does be­tween Uganda and Rwanda, who have also had their episodes of diplo­matic mad­ness in re­cent years.

I don’t see that Ethiopia and Kenya, or Kenya and So­ma­lia, would have a sim­i­lar prob­lem. So the EAC would prob­a­bly do well to spit out Bu­rundi, and court So­ma­lia or Ethiopia – or both.

Bu­rundi will likely do well, with DR Congo, as the Cen­tral African mem­bers of South­ern African De­vel­op­ment Com­mu­nity, whose mem­ber­ship it seeks. In fu­ture, it can al­ways re­marry the EAC.

The ques­tion is be­ing asked, again, whether it was right to ad­mit Bu­rundi, South Su­dan.” Mu­sev­eni is such a no­to­ri­ously bad time­keeper, that when he has to lecture you about no­tice and time, then you are a lost cause.

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