Spirit of the Community: Whats a few stolen elections and smashed skulls among friends? By JENERALI ULIMWENGU Sometimes I wonder whether all the talk about integration is hogwash, whether it be at the level of the East African Community or at the continental level. I am especially sceptical because I keep hearing words that are never reflected in the body language of their speakers, and Im not inclined to believe in the genuineness of anyone who says they are very happy when they are grimacing. I believe that integration which etymologically should mean coming together, getting closer and merging aspects of our respective endeavours for the greater good of all the integrators should include mutual scrutiny of each others behaviour, peer review and due diligence, for it would be irresponsible for anyone self-respecting to jump into bed with unworthy characters. I am not even going to discuss the so-called United States of Africa, the song our venerable rulers were made to sing in Sirte as they received Brother Leaders petrodollars. Unashamedly, rulers who had only the other day kicked out of their countries scores of illegal immigrants from just across the border were made to declare they were ready to merge and be one with countries ten thousand kilometres away, inhabited by people they knew absolutely nothing about. (Here, please note, Im not even talking about those bigoted integrators who, within their very national borders, swear they will never be led by so and so because he/she happens to come from a different ethnic group). But my real quest here is to look at integration from the perspective of merging our energies to create synergies, from the point of view of conjugating our efforts to deliver faster progress and to create better living conditions for our people. Needless to say, this means greater co-ordination of our economic, financial, infrastructural and environmental undertakings with a view to achieving both efficiency and effectiveness. That bit is, to an extent, being done already, and all the summit meetings as well as the ministerial assemblies and parliamentary sessions have harped on those issues: A Common Market, harmonised tariffs, a unified rail system, etc. What I have not been hearing and Im listening hard is the harmonisation of our governance systems, policies and processes. It would seem that our rulers have not found it useful or possible to do due diligence on each other to assess each others performance in the area of democratic governance, although this is a major founding principle of the Community. Why is this so? Its simply because we have not moved very far beyond where we were in 1977 when the first Community died. We have maintained a structure that only serves the interests of sitting heads of state and their rickety governments, a trade union of generally tired rulers instead of a Community of the peoples of the region, underwritten by mass adhesion and popular participation. That is why a whole lot of governance issues are ignored at the EAC level even though they are played out in the open. For instance, the electoral processes have become a mere sham in our countries, election stealing varying only in degrees of non-integrity from one country to another: In one country they simply stole a whole election, just like that, in one fell swoop, and they lived to tell the story. With such an example of massive electoral burglary, its hardly surprising that in the other countries, where vote stealing is also rampant, the culprits assume the stature of pickpockets. And when it comes to intimidating their people and roughing up their Besigyes and their Slaas, they all do it with equal relish, breaking limbs and smashing skulls with glorious insouciance. None of our rulers will want to do a peer review on this, for the word is, close your eyes, Ill close mine. But ours are open. Jenerali Ulimwengu, chairman of the board of Raia Mwema newspaper, is a political commentator and civil society activist based in Dar es Salaam. E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org Source: The East African My take - Hapo penye red: Hata nami nashindwa kjuelewa. Hivi wanapata raha gani kufanya hii kitu kwa wenzao? Could it be acts of pure sadism?