MWANGI: Is Magufuli’s broom strong enough to sweep EAC?

MWANGI: Is Magufuli’s broom strong enough to sweep EAC?

By Isaac Mwangi, East African News Agency

It is ironic that some of the worst corruption in the region is going on right under Tanzanian President John Pombe Magufuli’s nose, though there may be little that he can do to alter the situation. The stink raised by the corruption and mismanagement at the East African Community, headquartered in the northern Tanzanian town of Arusha, is in sharp contrast to the good news emanating from Magufuli’s administration.

But East Africa has for long been a land of contradictions: The accolades granted Rwanda’s Paul Kagame are in sharp contrast to the rebukes against Kenya’s corrupt leaders; the ethnic harmony in Tanzania provides an entirely different scenario from the divisions that are once again threatening civil war in Burundi, and the affluence of the ruling classes in the whole region are simply shameful when one looks at the plight of the children in many rural areas and urban slums.

With the rise of President John Magufuli to power, these contradictions are now reaching dizzying heights. The new Tanzanian President has proved himself a beacon of good governance and prudent financial spending. He has endeared himself to people in the region and beyond with his strict, hands-on approach and zero tolerance for corruption.

As the region continues its dalliance with regional integration – sometimes seriously, but mostly in a back-and-forth game – it can at least borrow a few ideas from President Magufuli. In particular, the regional institutions we are creating cannot be allowed to become a showcase of corruption, ethno-nationalistic rivalry and sheer incompetence.

But expecting them to be different would perhaps be folly, considering the weaknesses of the partner states that make up the community. For if there the corruption in Kenya and Uganda is gargantuan, would it be reasonable to expect a multinational organization that brings together these two countries to be any different?

The challenge, therefore, is to establish a different culture for our multilateral institutions such that while they continue operating right in our midst, they will not be contaminated with the issues that bedevil our nations and hold them captive.

Though we are far from perfection, today the region boasts at least two leaders who have proven credentials in fighting corruption and indiscipline: Magufuli and Kagame. Perhaps, it is time that they brought their weight to bear on our regional institutions.

One year after the other, audit reports emanating from the East African Community Secretariat, its organs and institutions have made deeply distressing reading. The documented plunder of regional resources has not raised much ire from across the region, perhaps because many citizens are ill-informed about regional matters.

Yet, this rot cannot be allowed to continue. Reports by the various committees of the East African Legislative Assembly (EALA) have many times called into question the blatant theft of funds at EAC institutions. But the gravy train continues.

There are endless trips by senior officers, led by top most leaders. Most of them are out of the office on various trips most of the year. The regional legislators themselves, despite questioning this blatant misuse of funds, have also joined the bandwagon, moving from one capital to another as they hold outside sessions.

What is the point of such sessions? Our national legislatures conduct their affairs comfortably without having to move from one town to another pretending to be meeting the people; why can’t EAC legislators, similarly, work from their comfortable premises in Arusha?

The members of the regional Assembly have also been claiming to undertake sensitization missions. While this may sound noble, it should be noted that this is none of their business. Their work is to make laws, and sensitization can best be achieved through strengthening the Public Affairs Department of the EAC Secretariat, which would then be required to work effectively with stakeholders across the region.

It is particularly disheartening that the funds being squandered are largely donor funds. And what about the lavish retreats? That makes it difficult that we shall in the near future wean ourselves from donor dependency. Moreover, programmes that ought to have been achieved using these funds, for the purpose of greater regional integration, end up taking much longer or failing.

The highest decision-making organ of the EAC is the Heads of State summit. Hopefully, Magufuli will reach beyond Tanzania and work his magic to move the other Heads of State to see reason in cleaning up the community’s institutions.

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