DAILY NATION*- EAC: Kenya has no reason to bend too low for acceptance THE EAST AFRICAN community region is a rarity in the contient five contiguous countries sharing a pre-colonial and colonial history, and presently with a dream to unite their economies and, eventually, as a federated political entity. That, at least, is the dream. The reality is a little more discouraging. Ugandan MPs are considering a Bill that will make it almost impossible for citizens of other East African countries to invest in the Kampala Stock Exchange. This comes in the wake of concern in the country following the losses suffered by Ugandan investors who put their money into the Nairobi Stock Exchange during the Safaricom IPO. In Tanzania, nationals of the rest of the EAC are not even allowed to own land. A recent EAC leaders summit wrung out of Tanzania a protocol allowing non-citizens to settle so long as they are engaged in economic activities. As the economic activities are not defined in the protocol, it is left to local interpretation to decide what does qualify. And as Kenyan companies have discovered to their considerable cost, such interpretation is generally anti-EAC and usually anti-Kenyan. UNDERLYING THESE AND VARIOUS other actions that go against the spirit of the EAC if ever there was one is a rabid fear of Kenyans in both Uganda and Tanzania. Tanzania with far more land than Kenya, blessed with hydrocarbons and gold as well as diamonds, without a history of strife or pronounced ethnicity to the extent that Kenya has, and with a larger population than Kenyas is much poorer than Kenya. Various excuses have been advanced to explain this, the most credible of which is the destructive Ujamaa system of economic (under) development that Tanzania followed under President Nyerere. Uganda, on the other hand, is bogged down in ethnic insurrections in the north and a simmering, now-on now-off war with rebels in the Congo. As a result of the mistrust between the original EAC triumvirate, their borders are bywords for lack of co-operation between the respective border agencies. On the Kenya-Uganda border, a rag-tag rebel movement materialised in the last two years, murdering civilians and hacking off the ears of those they did not kill. They used the Ugandan side of Mt Elgon as their hideout. The Ugandan authorities were not in the least bit bothered. In Tanzania, Kenyans seem to be seen as criminals first and foremost. Last year, a Kenyan investor who owned a driving school in Nairobi a woman, no less was gunned down in Tanzania on suspicion of being a bank robber. She was not even armed, and no trace of arms or the proceeds of robbery were found on her person or in her car. In fact, one can say that other than for tiny Rwanda Burundi is too preoccupied with civil war to care one way or the other Kenya seems to be the unwelcome guest at the EAC table. This is short-sighted and nonsensical. Uganda, for one, relies on Kenya for virtually all its imports. Those not manufactured in Kenya transit through Kenya en route to Kampala a fact emphasised painfully during the post-election violence when the closure of the Nakuru-Eldoret-Malaba highway resulted in scarcity of commodities, with Ugandas economy paying a high price as a result. There was much talk, at the time, of Tanzania and Uganda developing an alternative route from Dar es Salaam to Mwanza, but such talk has cooled down, as the actual cost of such an undertaking dawned on both countries. Tanzania is similarly myopic in its suspicion of Kenya. More than 270 Kenyan companies have invested in the country in deals worth a total sum of over $2 billion. The reverse is negligible. IN ADDITION, TANZANIA HAS A LOT to gain from allowing non-citizens to purchase or lease land: the World Bank holds that large tracts of land in Tanzania are left idle in the rainy season due to lack of capital, lack of know-how, or both. It would be better utilised if a system was found to allow EAC citizens to farm it commercially. With its overtures of economic co-operation being spurned by both countries, Kenya should look to southern Sudan, Rwanda and Burundi and thence to Congo for reliable economic partners. Otherwise, Kenya has already given too many concessions, both economic and political, to continue bending even lower for a regional bloc whose other members are clearly reluctant participants. Its time to move on!