If you are keen on regional integration, the ongoing exchanges between Kenya and Tanzania must have caught your attention.
The differences in response mechanisms to COVID-19 and its impacts makes one question the lovely words of East African Community anthem, ‘Patriotism and togetherness be the pillar of our community’.
The non-cooperation we are seeing today can be traced to several events that took place after EAC countries’ independence.
A classic example is the fallout of the East African Airways Joint Corporation. The fallout happened when Uganda and Tanzania struggled to pay outstanding debts to sustain the operations of the airline. At the time of folding the corporation, the Kenyan government was the main creditor. All countries went on to establish their own airlines and that has been the case to date.
In recent years, we have witnessed efforts to bring East African countries together. The establishment of East Africa Legislative Assembly (EALA), the EAC anthem and several youth-focused summits on EAC matters are some of the traceable progress. However, the success of the cooperation or the effectiveness of the EAC is still in question.
The COVID-19 crisis is exposing some aspects of a forced marriage or perhaps the current partners in the marriage are uncomfortable opening their hearts. The kids are suffering emotionally and as you all know, prolonged stress leads to depression. Who wants a depressed EAC in the nearby future?
The mutual bilateral ban on non-essential travels between Canada and United States is an example of what togetherness means. The ban is one that the Kenyan and Tanzanian authorities might want to watch in a bid to prioritize people’s safety while maintaining healthy economic relations.
Canada borders the US to the south and serves as its second-largest trading partner. Both countries recognize the need to protect their people despite the high level of trading activities between them. The US being the worst-hit country is a red flag to Canada as Tanzania is likely to be to Kenya in the coming days.
Since March, the US has been hosting weekly calls with their Canadian and Mexican counterparts to share best practices and collaborate in responding to the unique and complex challenges presented by COVID-19. They have also been working together to plan for safe reopening of the economies.
The success of the cooperation has seen Canada maintain relatively low infections with minimal cross-border transmissions. It is such cooperation that Tanzania should seek with its neighbors.
The hard stance press conferences are not serving the interests of EAC citizens. In fact, they are likely to make the infection and economic recovery processes more costly.
We might also want to go back to the drawing board and ask ourselves whether we are living truthfully to the treaty for the establishment of the East African Community.