Friday, November 30, 2012

Museveni and Kagame drop of the map

The Daily Monitor reports

East African Community gets new headquarters

From left: President Kibaki, Tanzania’s President Jakaya Kikwete and The Aga Khan, founder and chairman of the Aga Khan Development Network, are shown the amenities of the new East African Community headquarters in Arusha on November 28, 2012. This was during the opening of the two buildings. PHOTO/STEPHEN MUDIARI   NATION MEDIA GROUP

The East Africa Community now has a permanent place to call home following yesterday’s grand opening of an ultra-modern office complex in Arusha, Tanzania.

Presidents Mwai Kibaki of Kenya, Jakaya Kikwete of Tanzania and Pierre Nkurunziza of Burundi officiated at the ceremony in the city that has cemented its traditional place as the regional body’s seat of power.

All very nice and about as interesting as watching grass grow. However then we have this. 

Rwandan leader Paul Kagame and President Museveni of Uganda who had earlier been expected to join their counterparts in launching the EAC headquarters, did not show up despite an hour delay to await their arrival.

OK I might be putting a western interpretation on this but usually Presidents show up to appointments that they are guests of honour at certainly they have people who contact functionaries and tell them to deputise something that clearly didn't happen here.

Rwandan Premier Pierre Habumuremyi finally stepped in for his leader as did Ugandan minister of State for East African Affairs Shem Bagaine who represented Mr Museveni. It was not immediately stated why the two skipped the meeting even though their names remained ingrained in the plague designed for the ceremony.

That leaves one very big question where were they. Why did they both drop of the face of the earth at the same time. I don't believe in coincidence as a rule and certainly not in a situation such as this. There seems to be no major new crisis being reported other than the utterably predictable Goma situstion. My guess is something has happened and I wouldn't bet against it being DR Congo related.

However, that did not dampen the joyous spirit among the hundreds of jubilant nationals of the five EAC member countries who braved a chilly morning to witness the event described by speakers as a turning point in pursuit of a fully integrated region.

The apparent significance of the Euros 18.8m office complex fully funded by the German government was also underlined by the attendance of other high ranking dignitaries from the diplomatic community as well as those among the business and civil society communities.

Among those who cheered on as the three Presidents unveiled the plague and cut the tape to usher in the new era included the host country’s’ Vice President Mohammed Ghalib Bilal, Premier Mizengo Pinda and His Highness the Aga Khan, the chairman of Aga Khan Development Network (AKDN).

As part of the celebrations, the EAC Secretary General, Mr Richard Sezibera, signed two three-year bilateral agreements with Germany worth Euros 26m for Tax Administration and Investment Promotion reforms and another one with USAID for digitalization of data exchange among the different revenue authorities that could save up to $50m in costs at the border posts.

That is significant amounts of coin. Most governments would think hard about stuffing around doners with such a casual attitude towards attendence.

The signed agreements add up to a growing list of bilateral and multilateral development partners eyeing to ride on the EAC market of more than 150 million people to establish and grow their business presence in Kenya, Tanzania, Uganda, Burundi and Rwanda.

President Kibaki, who is the current chairman of the Heads of State Summit, said EAC citizens should be proud of the achievements of EAC integration process and appealed that the new complex should be an impetus for deepening success. “Today is a truly special day for us all. We have opened a project that will serve as a symbol for unity and renewal of the integration process,” said President Kibaki. The Kenyan president called for free movement of goods, services and people.

Boring though this may be it is a bloody good idea from an Eastern Africa economic development perspective and that is something that would not have been lost on either Kagame or Museveni. That makes the no show even more perplexing. 

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