Imagine yourself as a presidential candidate in the Kenyan general elections. You are invited as a keynote speaker in a meeting comprising of university students -drawn from all Tanzanian universities- at the University of Dar es Salaam. What will you tell these students? Will you use the forum to campaign for presidency?
During Barrack Obama’s tour in Africa, we saw him market the USA as a beacon of hope. He called on African government to develop a close relationship with the USA for the benefit of citizens of both continents. He also took a HIV test in Kenya to motivate Kenyans to participate in testing and prevention of AIDs. Please note that at the time, Mr. Obama had shown interest in running for office.
Back in Kenya, the countries interests take the back burner as personal ambitions are put on overdrive. This was clearly evident when Raila Odinga took his campaign overseas with claims that the Kenyan economy and the NSE thrives on drug money. Some may argue that he had every right to make such ridiculous claims because he was addressing a crowd comprising mainly of Kenyan citizens. But what do you make of his keynote speech to over 10,000 East African Community university students in Kampala? In the speech Raila lampooned president Mwai Kibaki telling him that he must meet all ODM-K demands for “minimum reforms” or else… He read ODM’s demands to these students even when it is clear that they cannot vote in Kenyan elections.
I think there are many issues affecting the three East African Community members that Raila could have talked about instead of using the inter-university forum to advance his campaign for presidency. Chief among these are the issues of the EAC economy and the political integration of these three countries.
In the realization that these students will be shaping up future policies that affect the EAC, Raila should have raised the issue of cross border trade, work permits, and development of infrastructure to ease movement within the region. As of today, Tanzania remains the only country in the region where Kenyans have to go through red-tape regulations to get work permits.
In march last year, Kenyan journalist were arrested in Tanzania and deported. Kenyan businesses in Tanzania have also had their employees deported as Tanzanians claim that Kenyans are too aggressive in business. Raila should have used this forum to reassure Tanzanians of our commitment to make the EAC a success by encouraging cross border employment and investment. Instead, Mr. Odinga chose to embrace party activism as he threw statesmanship out of the window.
The inter-university forum would have been the best venue to challenge students to think about how best the region can utilize resources from this lake. In the past we have seen Ugandan forces crossing into Kenyan waters to arrest fishermen. This issue touches the interests of Mfangano Islands residents who depend on fishing.
It is a shame that our leaders are behaving akin to the woman who requested King Solomon to split up the baby so that each can have a share. These leaders want to be president but they use foreign countries as platforms ridicule their motherland and spread bold lies. Will they have an intact country to govern if their preoccupation is selling Kenya as a dead horse?