Where was the EAC when the
region's head was being cut off?
THE EAST AFRICAN
By CHARLES ONYANGO-OBBO
10. March 2008
At the signing of the power-sharing pact between President Mwai
Kibaki and ODM leader Raila Odinga two weeks ago, both leaders
thanked the international figures who had helped make the deal
Lead mediator Kofi Annan received the most kudos; then Tanzania’s
President Jakaya Kikwete and former president Ben Mkapa, who was a
member of Annan’s team, were also showered with praise . Ghana’s
President John Kufuor, the man who started it all as chair of the
African Union, was mentioned, as was another member of the Annan
team, Graca Machel.
Raila was particularly generous in his appreciation, reeling off a
long list that included the US and UK (indeed, he stopped just
short of thanking the chaps who served tea at the meetings).
There was one man whom Kibaki and Raila seemed agreed not to
mention — Uganda President Yoweri Museveni. It was understandable
that Raila wouldn’t acknowledge Museveni, because the ODM feel
Museveni was too hasty in congratulating Kibaki immediately he was
announced victor in the disputed December polls.
However, in Uganda, the government was keen to explain that
Museveni had not had a falling out with Raila or ODM and that,
after all, when he was fleeing Daniel arap Moi’s oppression in
1991, the Museveni government harboured and helped Raila move on
Museveni was one of the long chain of big men and women who came
to Nairobi to get Kibaki and Raila to make peace, and according to
one version helped open the door for Annan, who was till then
In Kampala, the word was that, as chair of the East African
Community, Museveni was asked by regional leaders to call a summit
on the Kenya crisis, given that it was hurting the economies of
To invite President Kibaki to the summit, Museveni had to
acknowledge his legitimacy, and therefore to congratulate him on
his victory. In the end, Kibaki couldn’t travel for the summit and
requested that since Kenya was the main item on the agenda, the
meeting should not take place without him. It didn’t.
The bigger story this tells is that the Kenya violence exposed the
new EAC as deeply ineffectual in the first big crisis to face a
member state since it was formed. In a recent speech to the East
African Legislative Assembly in Arusha, Museveni said the fact
that Uganda, Rwanda, eastern DR Congo, and Southern Sudan faced
shortages only proved just how much the countries in the region
are interdependent. He said the region was like a body — you
cannot cut away the head and hope that the torso will remain alive.
Right. But what did the EAC do to prevent the head from being cut
off? Little. It can’t take credit for Kikwete’s contribution,
because he jumped into the fray as the new chairman of the African
STILL, THE KENYA CRISIS AND ITS regional effect are just what the
EAC needed to understand the meaning of the world “relevance” and
“authority” in international power play.Rwandan President Paul
Kagame’s controversial remarks that the army should have
intervened to stop the killings in Kenya —construed by some
observers as a call for a military coup — might just be where the
EAC’s salvation lies.
It might consider forming a “humanitarian” intervention force,
which could be rushed into situations like the Rift Valley at the
height of the crisis, in countries where there are too many
political sensitivities about using the national army.
When what happened in Kenya happens again anywhere in East Africa,
the EAC should deal with it before the UN or AU come to town. And
you can almost be sure that this is not the last such violence
that region has seen.