OPINION

Uganda, Rwanda clash harmful to integration

All is not sitting well within the East African region. The intrigues and manoeuvrings that have recently characterised Uganda, Rwanda ties must be addressed promptly and expeditiously. 

Leaders of the five East African Community member states — Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania, and later incorporating Rwanda, Burundi and Southern Sudan — and the secretariat bloc have worked hard, setting goals beneficial to the region of about 172 million people, also its key resource.  President Uhuru Kenyatta was over the weekend engaged in shuttle diplomacy aimed at dousing rising voltage between Rwanda and Uganda which have in recent months seen the two fraternal countries trade accusations that ran counter to their mutual interests and those of the bloc.    

East African leaders, who form the EAC Summit can ill afford to let their eyes off the ball. And for those in this region the focus, if anybody needed reminding, is the raft of protocols namely the Customs Union, the Common Market, the Monetary Union and ultimately Political Confederation, which anchor the regional dream. 

Admittedly, there have been bottlenecks in implementation of the protocols with individual countries tempted to work on their own, thus slowing down integration objectives. This trend has prompted business executives to call on political authorities to show more commitment and catalyse implementation of policies that speed up free movement of goods and people. Uganda and Rwanda, today appear inexplicably on different orbits, with each accusing the other of espionage, unlawful detention of each others citizens, supporting rebels and trade sabotage.  Meanwhile, access and business have been reduced to a trickle.

Kenya that serves the Great Lakes hinterland has naturally been sucked in and stands to lose considerable business as the gateway to the Northern Corridor.  But while Rwanda’s apparent exploration of the Central Corridor route that aims to link it with Dares Salaam looks set to trigger disequilibrium, it need not stoke hostilities latent and certainly not overt between neighbours.

Regional leaders must do everything to get things back on track and ensure functionality of regional protocols so that the integration goals do not go up in smoke. They must, as President Uhuru advised, summon the goodwill to overcome the emergent challenges. It would be tragic if  leaders allow egos to puncture a viable regional entity by stoking insular wave of  short-serving nationalism.   

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