Reflections on ‘coalition of the willing’ meeting in Kampala
Kampala will return to normal now that heads of state of Kenya, Uganda and Rwanda and business leaders return to their countries as the so called ‘coalition of the willing’ conference in famous Munyonyo commonwealth hotel winds down. However, the legacy of the meeting today will project far into the future as the presence of Tanzania’s vice president Dr Mohammed Gharib Bilala and Burundi representatives made the meeting more of inclusive. The three region world leaders who gathered in Munyonyo will not only determine the future of the region but that of the East and Central African regional economies for decades to come. They will determine whether the region continues to be the engine of Africa’s economic growth and the center of peace and stability or a region plagued by terrorism that could cause havoc and uncertainty, politically and economically. They launched the tourist regional visa that will reduce bureaucracies involved in getting multiple visas and pledged to involve Tanzania and Burundi in their plans. The heads of state of Uganda, Kenya and Rwanda also signed the defense, peace and security pact meant to strengthen regional security and partnership in the fight against terrorism, cross-border crime and other regional security threats as well as safeguarding key joint infrastructure being put in place like the oil refinery, railway line and oil pipeline. The three countries also shared progress on the projects being fast-tracked along the northern corridor that serves Kenya, Uganda, Rwanda, Burundi, Tanzania, South Sudan and eastern DR Congo.
The presidents officially launched IDs as travel documents among the three countries as well as use of EAC single tourist visa to travel to Rwanda, Kenya and Uganda. Other travel documents that can be temporarily used are student’s cards, and voter’s cards. The summit in Kampala was aimed at breaking down trade barriers among three countries of Rwanda, Kenya and Uganda economies while Tanzania and Burundi as well as South Sudan were invited as observers and they were given a chance to suggest areas of their interest in infrastructure projects for both northern and central transport corridors. Clashing agendas between the ‘coalition of the willing’ led by Kenya, Rwanda and Uganda and what I call the ‘coalition of the isolated’ that has Burundi and Tanzania may have slightly overshadowed the gathering, as well as preceding meetings by their representative. The summit was a precursor to the upcoming infrastructure meeting scheduled for April. At the heart of the conference was whether the East African region remains an open and free-trading one. For this to continue, Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta said that all five nations of East African must be part of the process. It is critical that the two giant economies in East Africa be part of the future growth of the region. Kenya and Tanzania cannot exclude one other from being involved in determining the roadmap for the region. Uganda has further enhanced its reputation and credibility by hosting the summit and being a perfect host. The conference proceed without problems, the leadership displayed by the Ugandan government will ensure it is also an integral part of the region’s future.