State of Eight: Challenges Facing the East Africa Community

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This transcript is from a CSIS podcast published on April 4, 2024. Listen to the podcast here.

Mvemba Phezo Dizolele: Welcome to Into Africa. My name is Mvemba Phezo Dizolele. I'm a Senior fellow and a Director of the Africa Program at the Center for Strategic and International Studies. This is a podcast where we talk everything Africa, politics, economics, security and culture. Welcome.

The East African Community has recently admitted Somalia as its eighth and most recent member state, following a long wait period. Somalia's admission into the bloc aims to boost economic growth in the country, however this decision has been met with sharp criticism from those who argue that Somalia's long history of conflict may lead to potential security challenges within the bloc. This statement is seemingly paradoxical, particularly considering that a majority of member states of the EAC are currently facing issues of insecurity and ongoing crises that threaten not only their own citizens, but also those of neighboring countries.

The East African Community is a regional intergovernmental organization that comprises eight member states, namely Burundi, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Kenya, Rwanda, South Sudan, Uganda, Tanzania and of course the newly admitted Somalia. The establishment of this bloc dates back to 1967, but it collapsed 10 years later in 1977, due to various issues, including tensions between partner states. The bloc was later revived with the signing of the treaty on November 30th, 1999, which officially came into effect on July 7th, 2000, following its ratification by the original three partner states, Kenya, Tanzania and Uganda.

The primary objective of the bloc is to widen and deepen economic, political, social and cultural integration in order to improve the quality of life of the people in East Africa through increased competitiveness, value-added production, trade and investment. His excellency Salva Kiir Mayardit, the president of South Sudan currently serves as the EAC Chairman. Some of the main achievement of the East Africa Community include removal of visas and work permit fees for East Africans, use of ID and student cards as travel document, among others.

However, there are still tensions among member states of the bloc ranging from the disagreements between Uganda and Rwanda regarding border issues, to the territorial disputes that have arisen between Kenya and Uganda, to the conflict involving the M23 rebel group in DRC that has pushed Rwanda and the Democratic Republic of Congo to the brink of war, with the DRC accusing Rwanda of supporting the group. Additionally, the relationship between Burundi and Rwanda is deteriorated due to allegations of Rwanda providing financial and training support to the RED-Tabara group. This internal conflict could potentially threaten the stability of the bloc, and it calls into question the future of its existence.

Joining me today to discuss the state of the East Africa Community today is Pascal Kambale, a human right lawyer who's based in Goma in eastern DRC, and Beverly Ochieng a non-resident senior associate with the Center for Strategic and International Studies who's joining us from London in the United Kingdom. Beverly and Pascal welcome to Into Africa.

Pascal Kambale: Thank you.

Beverly Ochieng: Thank you.

Mvemba Phezo Dizolele: Let's just get to it. EAC has made the news quite a bit lately, particularly about all these issues that I- I have just read at the top of this, uh, this session here. What is the current situation? What is the state of affairs in EAC speaking general? Beverly, we'll start with you.

Beverly Ochieng: I think, the EAC's has continued to be a quite a diverse organization, and as you noted, it includes countries stretching all the way from Kenya, going up to the north, you're now going to Somalia, and then going up further east, you're going all the way to DR Congo, and these are among the latest members of the bloc, but it doesn't mean it's a very united bloc. I think, it's been trying to consolidate a variety of interests, whether they're economic, political, security, and each new member comes in with some weight of issues. So, when DR Congo joined, round about 2022, there was the concern about the security crisis in the east, but everyone was looking at the fact that this is a country with a very big population of nearly a hundred million people.

It would be a big market. It's- it has minerals. There was a road that was being built between DRC and neighboring Uganda, and that would potentially increase or improve imports and exports between the countries. When Somalia joined, and that took a longer time, because of the security situation, and I think, from the lessons learned from previous conflicts within the region, was the community ready to take on an active conflict zone, an area that does display quite a bit of promise. Somalia has the longest stretch of the Indian Ocean, which would mean such an expansive port operation, if there was stability in the country, given its long history of piracy, and now the current insurgency of al-Shabaab.

But all of them coming in have always been about opportunities, support and consolidating the region, and trying to make it almost like a political and economic federation, and there were some discussions, much, much earlier, pre-2010 of a possible federation and maybe even a single sovereign state or an economy, which has been difficult because this is a region that has different languages, different political ambitions, security contexts, social needs, but ultimately there's been some mechanisms through which they can support each other. So, the EAC will have certain committees either for peace, for economy, which would then try to address grievances that tend to arise between member states, because sometimes you're neighbors, and you have, e- ethnic links.

You may have political links, but sometimes those breed animosity, as what we're seeing with the case with Burundi, Rwanda, DR Congo and Uganda, that has pr- probably the most prevalent flashpoint of political conflict among the members. But, I think, it's still fairly optimistic, considering the fact that it has managed to hold together for nearly three decades, compared to the very quick collapse when it was initially founded in '67 and collapsed in '77, and there have been modifications to maybe it's code of conduct. It could be in its mechanisms internally with addressing issues in conflict, and I think, that's what has built its resilience.

But, in terms of political leadership, there is still quite a bit of work to be done, because that longstanding animosity seems to be handed down, even when you do have elections, like in DRC, when Kabila changed over to Tshisekedi, or even here in Kenya, where now you have Ruto from Kenyatta, those things are still passed along with the political leadership, and that's the issue that probably needs to be addressed the most.

Mvemba Phezo Dizolele: Pascal from where you stand, Beverly has laid out a couple of points there, this was built with, and keeping in mind, opportunity, support, consolidating the region, you are sitting on the other side of it, uh, of the EAC, the far reaches over there in Goma, how does the community look to you?

Pascal Kambale: Yeah, I think, I think, Beverly has said it all. I completely a- agree with her. I think, it depends on, uh, how you see, on the perspec- on the, how you- you- you look at the integration. EAC has always been about two things as Beverly eloquently mentioned. One is economic opportunity perspective, and then the second one is, uh, political integration. I think, both the expansion and the experience over the last couple of decades, one can argue that EAC has been, uh, qui- quite successful in term of, uh, providing economic opportunity to its partner states. Now, we're talking about expanding railroads across a number of its, uh, member states, whether the central corridor, or through the central corridor, from, uh, Dar es Salaam to, uh, Kindu in eastern Congo, via, uh, Burundi.

The old, uh, railroad, uh, the- the Kenya-Uganda railroad folks are now about, uh, revamping it and, uh, even expanding to extend to southern, South Sudan. I think, the market has expanded and has been strengthened. We are talking about cooperation in, uh, oils sectors, even though there are some, the road is- is still bumpy as, uh, Uganda, Kenya, recent problem showed, but still the Department of Cooperation, uh, the Ugandan Department of Regional Cooperation earlier this week issued a report which showed that the share of, uh, of the East African Community market, uh, of the exports of Uganda has, uh, increased dramatically over the last couple of years.

I think, it's the same in other member states. Political integration wise, I think, uh, we still have a lot of problems, as Beverly mentioned. As we expand... as the East African Community expands, and integrate, uh, new- new countries, DRC, South Sudan, and Somalia, so the problems in term of, uh, security, in term of political integration also increase. So, I- I will say, relative success in term of economic opportunity, but still a lot of, a lot of problems in term of, uh, political integration.

Mvemba Phezo Dizolele: A lot of opportunities, but also a lot of political problems, in terms of integration. In 1967, 10 years after it, uh, in 1977, I think, it was founded, it collapsed, collapsed for a- a set of disagreement, I suppose, between the three founding members. Today, we know that different countries bring, I guess, different competitive advantages to the table, and also some of those, uh, issues that you may have mentioned. I would like to spend a little more time on getting a sense of whose bringing what to the table, and what are some of the challenges that we're facing today?

Beverly Ochieng: I suppose, it would be important to start with the core members, Kenya, Uganda and Tanzania, and, I think, in a previous discussion we talked about hegemony, and the fact that them being the founding members kind of pre-established that hegemony, that they would be the ones who would steer the politics, and the vision of what the EAC is, and they're quite influential. I mean, Kenya has played quite a significant role with peace agreements, whether it's with the South Sudan situation and the revitalized peace agreement from 2018, and that's after it had gone through a civil war, and after it had split from Sudan, which would've been a much more acrimonious process, not that that was completely pacified.

South Sudan is very much in crisis. They have an election coming this year, and we're not even sure if, how that's going to happen more than even the if it'll happen? Then you have Tanzania which has always been very inward looking, partly because of its socialist background and context, and in many instances, it rarely would comment on regional or international issues. It will work with international partners, and regional partners. It is part of another regional bloc, the SADC, with southern African countries. It's part of the trading bloc COMESA. It does have quite significant port area. It's had fairly strong leadership, consistent leadership, even though there have been concerns about what that does to the internal politics of the country.

And sometimes it can be a bit of a... not really a disruptor, but it does get into some antagonisms particularly with Kenya, when it comes to trade, when it comes to how they relate with one another, and sometimes it's all in jest. Like recently... probably last year, the president, Samia Suluhu was making fun of the dollar shortage, (laughs), in Kenya, which was a big economic issue, but for them it- it gave them a reason to be smug. And then you would look at Uganda, and Uganda's always had an interesting role in the region. They played a big role in Somalia with peacekeeping, with fighting against the al-Shabaab group.

They're also currently, and have historically played a role in DR Congo, the eastern region, partly because some of the former rebels, or rebel groups that used to be based in Uganda then moved to DR Congo and have been active there, and sometimes stoking unrest within the country, in Kampala, as recently as 2021. So, for them, the security situation is very prevalent, but there's also been other longstanding interest in the minerals and the reserves there, which has led to some proxy wars within the region, but they're also allies with countries like Israel, with the US, and that also builds defense, that builds technology, and that builds trade.

Then now you start to expand outwards to the members that started coming in from around 2007, that was Rwanda. It had just, it had recovered for quite sometime from the genocide in 1994. It has had more or less the same leadership, so some level of stability, in terms of its political leadership. It does bring in a population of nearly 14 million people. It has a fairly strong GDP. It has very strong international partners, particularly despite the fact that there're concerns about its human rights records. The US, the UK have put in quite a bit of investment, and it is growing as a hub that is hosting a lot of trade summits, technological summits, and sort of a competitor to Kenya, for instance, which has been always the home of many expatriate communities, and many international organizations.

Burundi as well joined around 2007, I believe... brings in about 12 million people. It's probably one of the most underdeveloped countries, because of the long history of turbulence and violence, but at the same time, it does bring to the variety of the region, because it has communities that are associated, or have close links with Bu- with Rwanda, or even with Tanzania. It is... there's some ambitions, I think, particularly by Russia to build a nuclear power plant there, which would be significant for energy in the region.

Then you have the most recent members, like DR Congo, big market, everyone was harping on about the big number of population that is there, the mineral reserves in the east. You have Somalia now, which is a key, despite its insecurity, security partner to the region because the US has invested there. They are supporting neighboring countries with the counterinsurgency operations, and I think, if it opens up and diversifies trade, then there could be some optimism of Somalia's stability beyond just the focus on the security situation. They have a wider market to look into the region, and to be able to have closer collaboration that would then build its resilience.

Mvemba Phezo Dizolele: Pascal, some of those issues, while they present opportunities, that we also see, you know, early on, I think, uh, Beverly had referred to ethnic links between different countries that should, in principle, be sources of consolidation, but we see they're breeding much more contention in the case of Rwanda, Burundi, in the case of Rwanda and DRC, and even Rwanda and Uganda. So, when we talk about the rise of hegemons, regional organization work better when there are some hegemon, and that is very clear who the hegemon is. In this case, just to listen to Beverly, it sounds to me there is a- a sort of a crisis of hegemon. It's not very clear who is the hegemon, if there's such country that can claim that mantle?

Pascal Kambale: That's right, and, Beverly's absolutely right. The East African Community is different from the other original community in that way, and the consequence is that nobody wants to admit what their place is within the, within the community. In other communities, I mean, everybody knows their place. We know who the big brother, or the big sister is. You know, who, uh, the middle, (laughs), tire of powerful member states are. Everybody keeps their place, although the competition is still playing out. For fairly long, for instance, take- take the ECOWAS. For very long, almost 10 years, the big brother Nigeria was almost dormant, did not show the kind of, uh, aggressive leadership they used to show.

But, nevertheless, everybody knew that was temporary, and, uh, one day or another, Nigeria will wake up again, and show leadership, which is happening now. I think, the East African Community is different. The competition is not amongst people, amongst state parties that know... each knows where they stand. The competition is about who will take the leadership over the others. I mean, for very long, Kenya was the- the economic powerhouse. Tanzania was the, provided some kind of a ideological and diplomatic leadership of some sort, and Uganda just to take the three original founding members, Uganda had a powerful militaristic security kind of influence in the, in the region.

That's no longer the case. Economic wise, Kenya's still powerful, but I think, it is fair to say, other countries, including Tanzania, even Uganda are biting to this economic influence that Kenya used to have. For very long in the region, even before DRC joined the club, it was the lone mallard in the region. I think, in the mining sector, in the political and democratic development, DRC is coming back to the fold, is showing some incredible diplomatic comeback in the region, even beyond the East African Community. Burundi as well. I think, that's the biggest problem East African Community faces now.

There is no clear leadership, no hegemon, nobody wants to acknowledge their place, and keep it. Until we resolve that, my fear is that this expulsion exercise is a way of resolving it, without saying it. I think, individual member states bringing some client states in the club in a way to shore up their own influence, internal influence. We don't know yet... it's not clear yet how blocs will form. In ECOWAS, for instance, we know where the blocs are. The two big Francophone countries in- in ECOWAS, Ivory Coast and Senegal, uh, have always formed a tandem, a very solid tandem. We know that the two big Anglophone countries, Ghana and Nigeria has always walked in tandem.

Everybody else kind of gravitated around these two blocs. So, so things are quite clear in ECOWAS. I think, things are not clear yet in East African Community, and I think, we still need sometime to for- for those blocs to form and bloc, and divisions to be clearly made among different blocs.

Mvemba Phezo Dizolele: Staying with you a little bit there Pascal, when you say, "Client states," you referred to this a few moments ago, who is leading who as far as those maybe emerging blocs, sub-blocs, I mean, we talking about EAC bloc, and what you're saying, there's some dynamics there whereby some countries have, are playing big brothers or big sisters to other countries. Can you flush that out a little bit?

Pascal Kambale: I think, it's quite clear in my view that, uh, you have a bloc forming around Tanzania, Burundi and DRC. I think, this trio is developing into some kind of a bloc. It's not very consolidated, very well-consolidated yet. One can see something, uh, around that. Before, uh, '22 elections in Kenya, there was some kind of a axis between Nairobi and Kinshasa that w- it was quite clear. It's n- no longer there anymore. It is kind of disappearing, and I think, the setback of the East African Community regional force was either a trigger or a consequence of that failing alliance between, uh, Nairobi and- and- and Kinshasa.

Uganda and- and Rwanda have a very, very strange, I think, the most mysterious relations in the region are between Uganda and Rwanda, but still these two countries have their way of developing some kind of understanding, but clearly Uganda and South Sudan are consolidating as a, as a bloc. Maybe, I'm not sure to what extent, uh, I'm sure, Beverly will have, uh, more insight of to what extent Somalia and Kenya could eventually develop as a bloc. I know they have, uh, some disputes. At the same time, they have some common ground around the fight against, uh, terrorism, al-Shabaab, et cetera. I don't know to what extent this could form a bloc or- or whether one of them will... each one will join other preexisting, uh, blocs.

But, this is how I see this bloc morphing. It is not clear yet. It's not solid yet. I think, the access that Dodoma, Kinshasa and Burundi, that for me, is more, is more solid, for now.

Mvemba Phezo Dizolele: Beverly, if you can pick up on that, one thing I want you to stress on is, you know, when we talk about hegemon or countries we cannot dismiss the role of the leaders. There is strong personalities emerging, whether it's in Kenya, or whether it's in Uganda. President Mohamud in Somalia, Tshisekedi in DRC. But, if we're to look at Rwanda, Rwanda has obviously Paul Kagame as president, you had referred to Rwanda earlier. Rwanda sees itself as a, as an hegemon of sort, how do they fit in this, particularly, particularly when we talk about these ethnic links. It's very interesting, because Rwanda will say, they're getting involved in DRC because of Rwandaphone particularly Tutsis, but then you, they have problem with the same groups of people in Burundi, and in Uganda.

At the same time this is really shaking the very understanding of transborder citizenship, ethnicity and so on. But then also if you can address just the larger dynamics between these various personalities who are leaders in this community?

Beverly Ochieng: Yeah, I think, it makes it very complicated, because Rwanda would see itself as a hegemon, because it's had the same leadership for the better part of the last two decades, and it seemed to be a strong leadership both militarily and politically, and influential in the region. But one of the issues has been that Rwanda has often come up as the one that is responsible allegedly for the resurgence of the Burundi rebel group RED-Tabara, for instance, or even the M23 resurgence in late 2021, and in some instances that disruption between Uganda and Rwanda that happened around 2019, 2020, and the ramifications of that was that there's still a sense of mistrust among the leadership between or among those countries.

And that becomes a problem when you want to exert influence. You could exert influence outside. So, Rwanda is now involved in a completely new frontier, which is northern Mozambique, not a member of the East African Community, but very close enough to the region that its security crisis is a cause of alarm for Tanzania, is a cause of alarm for Kenya, is a cause of alarm for Somalia, because the group there is referred to as al-Shabaab, despite not being that. But without getting away from it, there is... the good thing is that, when you have a leadership that has certain connections, either politically or ethnically, it means that they can speak to a wider group of constituents, in theory.

It means that they can present a united front. It means that they can negotiate agreements that will be beneficial not just for their own country, but for the wider subregional community, and that sometimes it is important to have a leadership that is able to have that kind of regional appeal. But that also might sit uncomfortably with leaders who might be from a different community, as is the case with Burundi, or as is the case with Uganda. And then you might have, 'cause, you know, ethnic issues also effect Kenya more internally than even regionally, because Kenya's issues with neighboring countries have nothing... well, with Somalia it's different, but with other countries, like Tanzania or Uganda, it's nothing to do with ethnicity.

With the Somalia issue it's quite complicated because there's contest, areas that have historically been contested by the Somali community, and even lately when there was a tussle between Somalia and Ethiopia, there were lots of people sharing maps of what Somalia ought to have been, which would have consolidated quite a significant part of Kenya, and quite a significant part of Ethiopia, which is also not an EAC member, but is within close proximity, and is a key partner to the region, because of the African Union, and other things. And you would imagine that because they have the same ambition, Kenya and Somalia, to fight against al-Shabaab, because that would be beneficial to the whole region, and open up an entire market, there's also mistrust on the basis of that, because right after some of the attacks that took place here in, I mean, in Kenya, in 2013 in Westgate and then there was after that, the attack in Garissa af- then there was the attack at the Dusit hotel in Nairobi, there was some animosity, and sometimes it was an eas- even unsaid, against the Somali community.

There was a point around 2014 where there was a roundup of people from the Somali community in certain parts of Nairobi, and that is also sometimes fed into the tensions between the two countries despite that ambition to fight against al-Shabaab. There have been flights being suspended for a long period of time, because maybe Kenya said something wrong about Somalia, or the self-declared Republic of Somaliland, or because of allegations of discrimination, and sometimes even the al-Shabaab group will use that to try to show Kenya as the enemy, and the leadership, the political legitimate leadership has to be able to look past that and to be able to fight against that, to ensure that those common markets, security, political interests are still met.

The situation with the Great Lakes is a lot more dicey... it's been very difficult to resolve, because even when international partners take a stance. I've seen France speak against Rwanda's alleged support of M23. The US has done the same, but that's only led to their vilification in DR Congo, rather than a partnership, which you would imagine, especially with the UN Peacekeeping Force leaving, you need to consolidate that western/regional partnership to protect the region. That hostility can be very difficult, and I suppose, Tshisekedi of DR Congo finds himself under pressure at a very local level to respond to that sentiment, to issue strong statements against Rwanda, and then you see that allegiance between themself and the Burundi leader, and now Rwanda has been perceived as the problem child of the region, despite its strong western alliances, despite the fact that it could be influential, because that is all seen in the lens of, "What are the other interests that Kagame is allegedly purported to have in the eastern regions through those proxy wars that have been playing out for longer, for probably as long as the existence of the EAC itself?"

Mvemba Phezo Dizolele: The issues there Beverly, two issues that you mentioned. You didn't call them that. One is, irredentism really, Somalis claiming greater Somalia, claiming parts of Kenya, claiming part of Ethiopia as a larger part. There is also irredentism in the part of Kigali, literally claiming that part of DRC belongs to Kigali, meaning b- had been part of Rwanda, and so on, and encroaching on, you know, citizens of a country, or a citizen of that country. So, the responsibility obviously, if every single country that has communities, ethnic community across border all get involved across border, then there won't be any peace anywhere in Africa, right, (laughs), because we know every country face this thing, right?

You have Zambian Bembas who are con- on side, both side of Z- Angola and Zambia, and- and DRC, Angola's similar. Uh, Rwanda itself, Burundi, Uganda and so on. So if anybody, if every other country gets involved because they feel like they can in such country, such country were molested, or whatever the issue was, it's just not going to work. So, Pascal, where you sit, how do you see this issue of irredentism, uh, flashing even more on one level? Then also, I want you to address the issue of countries that belong to other communities. So, the DRC, for instance, is obviously part of SADC. Tanzania is part of SADC. Somalia is in IGAD.

How those pressures from those various communities also come to bear in the future, or the shaping up of EAC?

Pascal Kambale: The interesting thing is that Rwanda, before it joined the East African Co- Community actually asked to join SADC. I believe it- it was in '99 or 2000... that's very interesting, and now there are talks about Burundi wanting to join SADC. SADC and EAC are not particular a singularity, uh, o- on- on this. In ECOWAS there are members that are both party to ECOWAS and the Common Monetary, uh, that French, Francophone grouping. I think, countries, particular countries join different economic regional groupings depending on what are the perceived benefits? For Tanzania, for instance, clearly they see themself more part of SADC when it comes to common ideological and security issues.

Security wise, I think, Tanzania is more invested in SADC, because of the Mozambique terrorist groups, uh, for instance, because of, uh, the history of frontline countries against apartheid, et cetera, et cetera, but also ideologically. Most members of SADC are former... the ruling class of these countries are former liberation movement, so is Chama Cha Mapinduzi, et cetera. I think, they think of themself as more interest, invested in East African Community for economic reason, more for economic reasons. I suspect DRC is the same. They tend to turn to SADC for security reasons, and at the same time, they think they, uh, have more economic interest, in, uh, in the East African Community.

So, yeah, for me, it's not, uh, Somalia is the same. I mean, Somalia is a Horn member, uh, and therefore is very well part of the equation, but at the same time they want to expand their economic opportunities with the East African Community. There's no contradiction there as far as I'm concerned.

Mvemba Phezo Dizolele: The issue of irredentism, how does that effect the relations within this community, uh, East Africa Community?

Pascal Kambale: Well, that's, uh, part of a reality in Africa. I mean, um, (laughs), uh, African countries, uh, since- since, uh, 1960, since the independence era, they have dragged each other before the International Court of Justice, I think, the ICJ has heard cases of, uh, border disputes, et cetera, more coming from Africa than coming from any other part of the world. The way borders were... that's, for me, that's not a problem. The problem is when individual leaders insist on that, since, erm, I would say, two decades, uh, or more- more than two decades. Rwanda has been a- a particular problem in that, not just with, uh, Uganda, not just with DRC, it has been accused of, uh, waging a coup d'état in 2015 in Burundi, and it's now har- harboring according to Burundi the rebellion that was launched following that coup d'état.

For me, that's- that's not the problem. We have had at some point, at the same time, one brother who was vice president in Uganda, his big brother was a- at the same time a minister of, I believe, foreign affairs in Kenya... the same family, same mother, same father. That was not a problem between Uganda and Rwanda. The same with Zambia and, uh, and- and the DRC. It is, it's not uncommon that families are split between the two countries. Sometime members of a, eh, individual members of the same family hold a senior position in government across the border, but nobody in Zambia, uh, suspect Congo of wanting to expand its territory toward, uh, towards Zambia or vice versa.

So, I think, the only issue is that, is Rwanda- Rwanda has had... it has a strong leadership, as Beverly said, but at the same time, it's the only country that has had problems over the last decade with almost everybody else in the East African Community, maybe with the on- only exception of Kenya.

Mvemba Phezo Dizolele: Speaking of that then, considering all these dynamics that we've spent the last, uh, few minutes dissecting, Beverly, where is the EAC going in the few minutes that we have left?

Beverly Ochieng: Well, I think, they want to ride on a wave of some optimism, because they've had new members. Members that have conflicted histories, that have a lot of baggage, (laughs), but also that expand the region, and diversify it. So, having a big Somali community as part of the EAC is really representative, because it's a community that is present in some parts of the region. Having DRC, which is arguably the largest, (laughs), country in the, in the region, as part of the EAC is also part of that increasing diversity. And expanding those economic interests, so that it has by value, a very strong GDP.

I mean, at the moment, I think, the region, ECOWAS is probably the biggest one, and it's always been one of the most powerful ones. And also just making sure that some of those alliances that naturally come together, even during periods of conflict, like the Great Lakes, or the Horn of Africa are put in one particular bloc, where they can speak in one voice. I think, the trouble is being able to just solidify the leadership, and being able to hold one another to account. Currently, even though we have that rotational leadership, despite all the conversation about having a hegemony and having a strong power, that rotational leadership means that each and one of, each and one of the leaders of the EAC county member states is a stakeholder, true stakeholder to the politics and the social and economic dynamics of the region... how much that trickles down is another issue altogether, because if you can't deal with the internal wrangles, if there's a lack of objectivity, then that collapses altogether.

Holding each other to account goes back to were there allegations of atrocities, were there allegations of human rights concerns, were there allegations of civil unrest, where you are concerned about whether there will be a transition or a democratic transition, whether there's representation in respective governments, and that balance between serenity... but also all of us are beholden to the same ethos and values, the how to navigate that will constantly evolve, but I think, given that it's held for this long, it's still in a good place, and I think, it'll still continue to try to be in a good place?

Mvemba Phezo Dizolele: Pascal Kambale 30 seconds, where's the EAC going?

Pascal Kambale: I think, we are in the crisis period now. A crisis of, uh, transition. EAC has never quite experienced this kind of crisis of transition between a relatively peaceful regional grouping to a grouping that will face political upheaval, political disputes among its members. This has been, um, experienced for very, very long in other, regional communities like ECOWAS, et cetera. For EAC it the first time, the very, very first time that they have to implement collective security architecture. The architecture was there, protocols providing for collective security were there, but they had never been used before.

It the first, ve- very first time in the- uh, the crisis of DRC, or eastern DRC that they have to use it, and they are, I suspect, they will have to use it even more often. I think, that the current crisis stem from that, and until they, uh, figure out how to do this, they have never done it before, I think, that crisis will be, will still be there. One can count on, uh, the collective wisdom, as Beverly said, I saw that the crisis of the East African Community f- originally falls in eastern DRC, standard wake up call, I see now, that Chair- Chairman, uh, Salva Kiir is now touring the region. He was in Kigali earlier this week, and then he was in, um, Burundi, I believe.

He's, uh, expected to come to Kinshasa. That- that is the kind of charter diplomacy that EAC was not accustomed to. They will learn in this crisis. One can hope that they will be able to master the collective, uh, wisdom to be able to overcome this crisis, but there's no denial that- that this is, this is a very deep crisis which for me is a crisis of transition from, uh, one type of, uh, regional community to another.

Mvemba Phezo Dizolele: On that note, transition from one type of, uh, regional community to another. I think, the e- size of brain will also increase the size and nature of the issue that the community will face. I would like thank, uh, Beverly Ochieng and Pascal Kambale for joining us today. Thank you.

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