Kampala is this week playing host to some important regional political players. President Museveni has been joined by his Kenyan, Rwandan, Burundian and Tanzanian colleagues for the Fourth Northern Corridor Integration Projects Summit.
Perhaps what is noticeable and very laudable about this summit is that unlike the previous meeting in Kigali, the leaders of Burundi and Tanzania are attending. Last year, there were concerns about the future of the East African Community after cracks began emerging with Kenya, Uganda and Rwanda being termed as the “Coalition of the Willing” and holding a couple of meetings minus the presence of Tanzania and Burundi.
We did argue in this space that isolation of the two other countries would greatly hamper the entire spirit of the revived East African Community, especially since for the union to thrive—it relies on the numbers and resources. The reason the discussion of a political federation had, for example, taken a back seat was because Tanzania had thought it was unreasonable to proceed in that direction while it was out of the picture.
It is for that reason that the EAC leaders must be commended for placing community above self and realising full quorum at the Kampala summit. However, presence alone is not enough. The spirit of openness and honesty must continue to be cultivated among the leaders and ultimately their populations.
The other noticeable thing about this summit is that unlike in the past where the heads of state used passports to enter the country, Presidents Uhuru Kenyatta (Kenya) and Paul Kagame (Rwanda) used their national IDs at Entebbe to enter Uganda. It was a symbolic gesture to mark the start of East African citizens using their national identity cards as travel documents across the region.
But even without seeking to blemish this celebration, Ugandans will not enjoy this service—at least for now—because the national ID project is yet to materialise. It is for this reason that the government must pull all stops to ensure that the national ID project, currently undertaken by the Internal Affairs ministry, is completed on time. Like other East Africans, Ugandans need to reap benefits of belonging to the EAC.