22 years ago, on July 7, 2000, the treaty for the (re)establishment of the East African Community came into force with the deposit of the instruments of ratification with the Secretary General by the three partner states at the time – Kenya, Tanzania and Uganda.< /p>
Here we are today, and it seems like an eternity ago.
Two leaders who were then in office, Tanzania’s Ben Mkapa and Kenya’s Daniel arap Moi, have since left these East African countries . Only Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni remains.
The EAC is now a seven-strong bloc, joined by Burundi, Rwanda, South Sudan and, more recently, the Democratic Republic of the Congo. In the Democratic Republic of the Congo, the complicated Laurent-Désiré Kabila was president in 2000. His son and successor Joseph Kabila was overshadowed. Kabila Senior was assassinated in 2001.
It was East Africa where Kenya Airways was the regional workhorse. RwandAir (2002) had not been founded. Air Tanzania had one foot in the grave. At Uganda Airlines, the cement had long since dried. It was revived two years ago and has been in the headlines lately for all the wrong reasons.
The comprehensive peace in Sudan that ended nearly three decades of war was five years away and the possibility that the To be so independent of South Sudan in July 2011 was not even plausible as a drunken fantasy.
The EAC was miles away from setting the good example (by the continent’s low standards in this case) of an economic bloc. The organization of African Unity had been discredited and disgraced, and plans to build a refurbished pan-African structure in its place were afoot. That happened in July 2002 with the formation of the African Union.
Okay, Museveni and Mkapa were there from our area, but international headlines focused on the brave and punchy Meles Zenawi Ethiopia, Nigeria’s Olusegun Obasanjo and his beautiful robes and the intellectual Thabo Mbeki in South Africa.
Vodafone Group of the UK had acquired a 40 per cent stake in Safaricom in May of the same year and launched the company which is now the telecommunications giant and the most profitable company in East Africa to become.
There was no broadband in East Africa. We really were still in a digital stone age, which makes the progress that has been made since, particularly 2005, truly remarkable.
Two of the five factors that should drive this leap in technology – the World Cup in South Africa in the 2010 and the election of Mwai Kibaki as president in Kenya – were still a long way off. The World Cup was awarded to South Africa in March 2004 and Kibaki became the first opposition leader to win an election in what was then the EAC in late December 2002.
The Kenya-Uganda border crossings at Busia and Malaba and virtually every other location in East Africa were dirty and miserable places with rough “no man’s land” sections. It took longer to get through.
Needless to say, the one-stop border posts and replicas of today’s border crossings were unthinkable back then.
Honest border crossing. Frontier traders, dubbed “smugglers,” were still occasionally shot in the back of the head for plying their trade.
We’ve come a long way.
Charles Onyango-Obbo is a journalist, writer and curator of The Wall of Great Africans. [emailprotected]
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