The Political Miscalculus Of The EAC (Part III) – OpEd


The EAC was originally designed to be a people-driven institution, but unfortunately, it started through a top-down process, with the common East African citizen staying at the bottom of the layers of the Community, barely being informed of what is happening and what would happen in the future. It involves only its governments and a large bureaucratic elite. It is not very clear, if it is, like the African Union and other African groupings, a partially foreign-financed institution or not. But it certainly looks more like a begging bowl being organized and goaded into becoming one big bowl that would contain a significant portion of Africa’s wealth which would be exploited by non-citizens through this large bureaucracy.

From its history, it is also clear that the large population of the now 8-member institution comprising labor, women, youth and, indeed, the large masses, are not involved in the processes of the EAC. But it has erred in its latest acquisition of Somalia as a member. Somalia is inhabited by a nation of pastoral nomads, who are by nature free spirited and natural politicians. If the EAC was never questioned before as an institution, it now has a population, each of which is a politician and who would be questioning each and every aspect of the politics of the EAC. Perhaps, the EAC did not notice, why Somalia does not have a functioning government? It is an anarchic society which lives on its own rules and where the rule of law is secondary. The EAC is in for a surprise!

There is this general assumption on the part of the EAC that its populations are as gullible as they can be, and they would not question the maneuverings of the governments and politicians or that they would do whatever their governments decide. It is far from the truth and the governments would be questioned and the fat administrators of the EAC would be in for a surprise if the Somali ascension into the EAC is fully ratified and approved, although this is an unlikely scenario. The EAC, with the addition of Somalia, should prepare for the coming breakdown and confusions of its operations with respect to its political, social and economic future. The EAC is not perhaps aware of how the poor President of Somalia is being ripped apart in his country at present, as a result of his government’s hasty entry into the EAC.

The EAC has not also probably weighed the import of the social infrastructure of Somalia. It is almost a homogenous population that is by and large Islamic, which is quite distinct from the current social and legal infrastructures of the EAC. This would cause many difficulties in the future with respect to the applicable laws in commercial disputes, family issues, inheritance and many other aspects, which are currently settled under traditional Somali law. He travels outside the country to avoid confrontations and left the art of governing to the side.

We have discussed in previous discourses, issues that are related to overlapping, where most of the members of the EAC seem to be also members of other institutions both African and non-African, Somalia included. The EAC thus constantly faces this issue, which does not allow it to achieve a focused strategy in all aspects towards the establishment of a federated country. Somalis are by nature a fiercely independent people, and they lost their strong government through their attempts in its first thirty years after independence to liberate Somali territories in other Horn of Africa and East Africa countries. It would be inconceivable for Somalis to lose and/or relinquish the sovereignty of their existing country. This is another miscalculation of the EAC, which it has not taken into consideration, knowing that Somalis dispute ownership of a third of Kenya’s territory, as was attested by a referendum in the region in 1963, where the population then overwhelmingly voted to join Somalia, but were officially denied by the then colonial power, the United Kingdom. To be considering swallowing of what is left of Somalia’s natural territory, is an outright misjudgment and blunder on the part of the EAC.

The EAC before admission of Somalia faced its own political challenges as all the member countries pursue differing objectives. They all fear loss of their autonomies, which is natural. They also would have to face molding their goals and objectives to meet the goals of the EAC and its strategies. However, one must note that some of the countries have socialist background, while others are purely capitalistic. Some countries have more lands and while some have lesser land surfaces and seas. Add Somalia to the equation and it has a large area and a fewer population than most countries in the EAC. This creates a major challenge for Somalia and Somalis who would resist those EAC populations, and this would cause a major clash within the now enlarged EAC. This is another major miscalculation on the part of the EAC with respect to admitting Somalia into its fold.

One of the greatest fears of the EAC used to be its proximity to conflict-prone regions such as Somalia, South Sudan and the Congo. It is ironic to note that all three conflicted countries of Somalia, South Sudan and DR Congo are members of the EAC. Was this a design to contain them within or exploit them to the full? Whatever, it was, it is not good for the original EAC or even with the addition of Rwanda and Burundi, the two small central African states. The main reason, of course, is that the region would be inundated with firearms, displaced populations, resultant poverty and diseases, shortage of housing and unemployment. Was the EAC only looking to receive these populations so that they could continue begging Europe and the Americas for help to keep them? Perhaps! But this does not help the EAC and more particularly with respect to Somalia and Somalis who would come in and would probably trade in almost everything – trafficking of EAC people, cheap goods, illegal goods and others.  This adds to the Political Miscalculus of the EAC with respect to the admission of Somalia into their fold.

Dr. Suleiman Walhad

Dr. Suleiman Walhad writes on the Horn of Africa economies and politics. He can be reached at [email protected].

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