By Faruk Kirunda
I congratulate the people of Kenya for choosing a new Head-Of-State, and other elected leaders, to steer the country forward. I also thank Kenyans for exercising restraint and choosing peace while enjoying their Constitutional right to decide on who leads them. H.E William Samoei Ruto now embarks on a journey to further unite Kenyans and deliver on his electoral pledges.
I take the opportunity to thank Rt. Hon. Raila Odinga for the giving Kenyans an option in the election by coming to contest. Democracy is about competition and only one winner emerges at any one time. Kenya’s democracy is stronger and, as East Africans, we celebrate all the stakeholders in the Kenyan elections.
Appreciation also goes to outgoing President, H.E Uhuru Kenyatta for steering Kenya and keeping it functional.
Now that H.E Ruto is at Harambee House, as a youthful leader, work is cut out for him. Kenyan internal issues are more for Kenyans, but there are crosscutting issues for us all as East Africans. One such issue is the matter of Federation/Integration. East Africa must federate and integrate, that is a given for any progressive leader and citizen of this great region of Africa! Our pioneer post-Independence leaders saw this and did their part, regardless of mistakes that later shot down their effort. Now, therefore, we must see farther than they did and bless their memory by bringing the “Project” to reality.
President Ruto should (fully) embrace the idea of East African Integration and join other Visionary leaders, not the least, H.E Museveni, a great friend of Kenya and a great optimist for East Africa’s future. During campaigns, I heard some voices blaming Ruto for visiting Uganda or having interests in neighbouring countries. This was interesting and I continue studying the meaning of this. Is it criminal for an East African to enjoy East Africa? Isn’t East Africa open to opportunities from among our people, and even outsiders? I think we have some work to do to get everybody to understand very well the concept of co-existence and bringing this bloc together.
Even nature (Creation) agrees with us!
As President Yoweri Museveni various says, the concept of integration is possible as there are political, economic and social elements of commonality among the people of the region. He teaches that political and economic integration in E.A is possible because the people in the region are similar or compatible for political federation to make sense. Our people are much the same, speaking related languages and continuously socially integrating.
The unification factor in the developed world like the USA was founded on the principle of bringing together of its fragmented colonies which made USA the power is it is. East Africa, and Africa at large, is challenged in its pace of development by “thinking small” rather than thinking of the big space and the big population that should be first line assets. Socio-economic transformation of our individual countries will benefit from collective transformation. The vision of Integration answers the question of prosperity for all of us.
Looking at the interest citizens of individual countries have in the wellbeing and affairs of sister countries, it means that East Africans are ready to integrate. All that they need is to be mobilised so that the agenda gets into their hands so that they aid its implementation. That’s the challenge on our hands now.
Changing mindsets of fellow Africans, and especially East Africans, towards the objective of attaining a stronger and united African continent and East Africa regional block which can effectively compete and have influence on the global stage is the big test of our leaders today. This mindset change begins with the leaders and is to be sustained by the citizens who should believe in themselves and take advantage of the abundant resources and opportunities existing in the region and on the continent.
Leaders of Burundi, South Sudan, and Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), the newest entrants to the EAC bloc have embraced the journey. The people need to come on board!
We should interrogate the backward mentality which has bedeviled Africans for centuries including the historical weaknesses of African leaders that made Africa a mining field for free labour and free wealth for foreigners. We should quicken the implementation of the East African Common Market, as well. Time is not on our side. We have talked for many years.
As Africans, we have a historical mission to liberate ourselves from all forms of enslavement including the prejudices of colour, tribe, religion and class. Particularly, though, the young people who are the vanguards and harbingers of a strong united Africa should be nurtured to shape an “African nation” that can effectively bargain with superior powers for equal rights rather than to be relegated as subjects of pity and exploitation. As Kenyans celebrate the new leadership, the value should come in a big way and I think H.E Ruto is of great value in that regard.
Leaders should unlock the imagination of our young leaders and the ordinary citizens to relate with their peers across borders so that they become stronger people with big dreams in scientific innovation, trade and business and in determining the democratic path of our motherland, Africa. Speakers of the various Parliaments should actively join the campaign to achieve full realisation of the Federation/Integration dream and assign legislators to popularise the idea among their constituents so that they own it.
The author is the Deputy Presidential Press Secretary
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