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Common solutions to East Africa’s problems

It is a sort of big brother is watching situation. Uganda. The name is synonymous with President Yoweri Kaguta Museveni. Ssevo, as he is fondly known by his admirers, has confounded both friends and opponents by his blowing hot and cold, a reluctant democrat. Kenya; The conviction of a Congolese Warlord has become relevant in Kenya. This, on the basis of the cases by ICC Prosecutor, Luis Moreno Ocampo, over the 2008 Kenya post election violence.

It seems the believers in ICC are saying Ocampo has nailed one, the next are the Kenyan suspects. In Tanzania, the push for re-invention of the ruling Party in the eyes of the members of the public seems to be the main focus. It is sad to see that the three most prominent issues that East Africans ought to be discussing and yet to find their way to the table. Seriously though, East Africa’s threats come from a huge number of disenchanted unemployed youth, inflation and the Somali question. 

I have not done a scientific study but my travels across East Africa, show that what Mwalimu Nyerere and the post-independence leaders were fighting for have remained much of our problem. In spite of all the expansion in the education sector, population growth has ensured that in real terms, there are more East Africans today dropping out of school than the ones who remain there long enough to get any meaningful benefit out of being in school.

The rot in the education sector thus means that we have millions of young people who have some semblance of education, but have not learnt adequately to apply the education in their day to day lives. The end result is millions of youth who migrate from rural to urban centres looking for manual jobs but expecting to be paid a living wage for it. On the other hand, our political class in the region have continued to hog all the public resources, what with Parliamentarians voting to pay themselves what they pretty much please in Uganda, Kenya and Tanzania, much to the chagrin of the rest of the public service.

The public service itself has a negative view of its role in the growth of the countries economies. Rather than view itself as the enabling arm, the Public Sector in this region, much, like its colonial predecessor sees itself like the boss, the enforcer, the embodiment of impunity. It does not much care for its role as the one surcharged with holding every resource in East Africa in trust for like an anonymous philosopher says, the earth we borrow and hold in trust for the future of our children not to use as we please but to conserve for their use.”

This scenario is made worse by the trend we have now seen with every special interest group demanding through strikes to be paid what they consider to be their worth and their argument being, “if Mps can set and get the salaries they want why can’t we.” These special interest groups are growing daily. They include University lecturers, Teachers, Doctors, Nurses and other health sector technocrats and the list may well be growing.

This has been made possible because, the Governments are seemingly getting to the negotiating table screaming and kicking only after a few lives have been lost or valuable lecture times. Then there comes the food deficit problem. We have a serious food problem in East Africa today. This is not from the perspective of the leaders but from the reality that even the persons in full time employment are having problems putting on the table 3 meals a day.

As we talk nuclear energy and techno cities in Tanzania and Kenya, we have our citizens who are unable to eat a full square meal in a day. How do we intend to deal with that situation soon rather than later? GMO’s or otherwise? The road to East African integration is paved with these challenges whose solutions may well lie in these countries, having a serious dialogue with themselves on how Tanzania, for example, can feed the whole of East Africa with commonality of interest and support. If we put in more money as a region into Tanzania’s vast lands, we can easily feed East Africa and beyond but the farming has to be irrigated and beyond the current small holdings. Let us invest in doing what we can do best.

Mr. Oyoo is Managing Editor of Utafiti News Features and can be reached on utafitinews@ yahoo.com

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