Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Of Trading Partners, Integration and the East African Community

With various interconnectivity projects between Uganda and Tanzania; Ethiopia and Kenya and Kenya and Rwanda, the region has taken action to improve trade competitiveness through the improvement of regional hard and soft infrastructure, transparency and predictability of trade and the general quality of the business environment- Report by UN Economic Commission for Africa (ECA)

“A prosperous, competitive, secure, stable and politically united East Africa” is the running call for the East Africa Community. Sure enough, cooperation and integration in the East African region has deepened and widened but if you ask me, more can be achieved. Effort and good will from the partner countries (Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania, Burundi and Rwanda) are required to achieve Mzee Julius Nyerere’s dream of gradual, regional integration leading up to a United States of Africa. The community is the only bloc to have taken concrete steps to integrate the three pillars of development; economic development, social inclusion and environmental protection. Realists however, will argue that this is a pipe dream as national interests are the driving force in all relations among states. Liberalists on the other hand, state that man is inherently good and common good is the guiding principle. By extension therefore, integration and cooperation is an achievable reality. The ultimate goal of the East African Community is to develop an East African Federation.
Article 5 (2) of the Treaty on the Establishment of the East African Community envisaged integration among the countries of the East Africa to progress from a Customs Union, a Common Market, Monetary Union and ultimately a Political Federation. The Common Market is my area of discussion in this essay. The pillars of the Common Market include free movement of labour, goods, services, capital and the right of establishment. EAC integration is people-centred, thus in the long run should nurture a bond of eastafricaness with a distinct East African identity.
The first advantage of the common market is that East African citizens are able to move freely from one partner country to another with minimal identification documentation. These harmonized services are a major step in deepening integration as well as facilitating cooperation on matters of defence, information sharing and immigration policies. This will make the region attractive for service providers, businesses, students and other East Africans who wish to tap into this potential. David Mitrany, a scholar on integration, states that this free movement of people enhances elite complimentary. In a way therefore, this EAC debate will achieve this objective as students from the partner states will congregate to debate about their region on behalf of their respective states.
This year, I visited the Namanga border and I must say I was impressed with the fastidiousness in processing documents. I also noticed the computerized systems in place, which further quickened the process of document verification and the automatic two-week allowance to stay in any of the partner states. Airports also have East African immigration tills and friendly officers who assist travellers in the region. The Common Market Protocol provides for East African citizens to work and own land and property in any partner states. This therefore provided an environment for both formal and informal businesses in the partner states.
Considering that harmonization of trade policies is a prerequisite of the Common Market, national interests have been the major impediment to these efforts. Kenya can be said to be more capitalist than the other partners. Therefore, national interests camouflaged as profits and benefits for the Kenyan citizen have sidelined the spirit of equality of member states. Kenya can to some extent be said to be using thy neighbour for selfish ends: benefiting at the expense of the other EA partners. Due to taxes and other product charges that are not harmonized, there is a huge difference in the cost of similar commodities in the region. This splits the market as people are most likely to buy the cheaper products. Nonetheless, some traders have found a way around this predicament by use of alternative illegal routes in order to carry out business at cheaper costs. This means that the region loses vital revenue which can be used in infrastructure development. For instance, truck drivers noted the poor state of some roads linking the partner states in the region.
The expansive EA Market is not proportional to the human resources manning it. Understaffing in the customs office is a nightmare and few personnel are in charge of processing the large population who transverse the region, particularly in Uganda. Furthermore, the lack of banking/ currency bureau facilities is yet another hindrance. This is coupled by the fact that different currencies mean that tax paid by Tanzanians when importing goods to Kenya is not the same in value as that paid when importing goods to Tanzania. Hopefully, the introduction of a single currency will avert this issue. Other disadvantages include implementation constraints, lack of critical technical capabilities as well as logistical and technical resources.
In conclusion, the EAC – being people centred – ought to have mechanisms in place to create a sense of eastafricaness as well as dialogue from the EAC Secretariat to the common mwananchi  and more involvement with young people. Additionally, more needs to be achieved to empower women’s involvement in the integration process. One promising effort is the East African Women in Business Platform (EAWiBP) and Strategic Plan which is committed to equity and mainstreaming gender in social and economic development. As I hinted in the beginning, more can be achieved for regional integration in the East African Region, as the Common Market is one of the corner-stones for the steady growth of the EA region and ultimately a Political Federation. It may be shaky now, but the foundation can be firmer and stronger; it is just a matter of time, political will and support from partner states.

A Life Phases Approach to Gender Based Violence

There lacks a unanimous definition of what Gender Based Violence (GBV) is as it differs in countries, communities and the legal context. Murray Straus, of the University of New Hampshire however echoes it as aggression, as opposed to anger, with an intent to hurt or harm and can be expressed physically, verbally or by withdrawing. In terms of GBV more so directed to women; men exhibit higher levels of physical aggression than women, but that does not mean that men too are not victims of GBV. It cuts across class, race, age, religion and national boundaries. Sadly, children and the handicapped are minority groups who are often more at risk.
In 2010 Kate Nustedt, Executive Director of Women for Women notes that in times of war/conflicts a woman’s burdens only get heavier, her vulnerabilities more pronounced. She remains locked in poverty, often losing the protection of home and husband, coping with fear and suffering devastating rights violations and violence, including torture, rape, sexual slavery, enforced prostitution and mutilation.
The 2008/2009 Kenya Health and Demographic Survey (DHS) indicates that domestic violence is rife in Kenya. The survey revealed that 39% of women have been physically or sexually assaulted by their husband or partner. In addition, the Federation of Women Lawyers Kenya (FIDA) highlighted that gender based violence and intimate partner violence is on an upward spiral. However, sexual and gender-based violence is exacerbated by conflict and is a key risk factor for HIV/AIDS as illustrated in the Women for Women International report. It further advances that women, children, the mentally/physically incapacitated in conflict-affected settings lack the basic level of security, protection of rights and access to justice. This is evident following the Kenya’s post-election violence after the 2007 elections, where cases of sexual and gender based violence were witnessed. Aminata Diaw-Cissé recently insisted that “we cannot end gender-related violence without understanding the social construction which is the backdrop.”

Eunice Kilonzo
Table 1: Types of Violence commonly experienced at various phases of the life cycle 
Prenatal  Prenatal sex selection, battering during pregnancy, coerced pregnancy (rape during war)
Infancy   Female infanticide, emotional and physical abuse, differential access to food and medical care.
Childhood Genital cutting; incest and sexual abuse; differential access to food, medical care, and education; child prostitution.
Adolescence Dating and courtship violence, economically coerced sex, sexual abuse in the workplace, rape, sexual harassment, forced prostitution.
Reproductive Reproductive  Abuse of women by intimate partners, marital rape, dowry abuse and murders, partner homicide, psychological abuse, sexual abuse in the workplace, sexual harassment, rape, abuse of women with disabilities
Old Age   Abuse of widows, elder abuse (which affects mostly women)
Source: Heise, L. 1994. Violence Against Women: The Hidden Health Burden. World Bank Discussion Paper. Washington. D.C. The World Bank.
Clearly, Gender Based Violence is present in every phase of life, worse still if you are a woman. Gross breaches of human rights, which sometimes involve security institutions that are responsible for protecting women, contribute to the perpetuation of Gender Based Violence. There is thus an urgent need for legislation to be enacted to provide for avenues seeking redress all persons affected by GBV.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Insecurity Concerns: Are we safe?

As of the today the 14th of November, about 44 police officers are confirmed dead however this toll could be higher as more bodies are being recovered form the scene. The 42 died while on duty in Baragoi, in Suguta Valley in the northern Samburu County as they attempted to recover stolen cattle.This comes at a time when barely a fortnight ago, 12 civilians were killed in similar circumstances. Local leaders said the clashes occurred when heavily armed raiders from the Samburu community invaded a village and stole 205 camels and two donkeys during the early Saturday morning raid in Samburu County in northwest Kenya. This prompted the police to pursue them, unfortunately for some- to their deaths. 

Considering the fatalities from the ambush it is said that the cattle rustlers may have had prior information of the police plans and were thus strategically placed in the ambush.After being ambushed, the police were shot arbitrarily by heavily armed militiamen believed to have come from Turkana. BBC reports that the attackers used sophisticated weapons such as anti-personnel bombs and rocket-propelled grenades further highlighting their preparedness. Internal Security Minister Katoo ole Metito vowed to bring those responsible to justice, the Standard newspaper reports.

Currently, the situation is tense, with heavily armed security personnel patrolling villages. In addition, the Tana Delta deaths are still fresh and the family of the bodyguard of Minister Amason Kingi is still mourning.These insecurity concerns highlight that something is not being done well. Because,if the police are not safe, then citizens are not any better. These killings have come at a very crucial time when the interviews for the Inspector General of the Police is going on while there is disquiet in the police force over their terms of service. 

My Kenyan Thoughts.

Thursday, November 1, 2012

International Student Festival 2013

I have been invited to attend the International Student Festival (ISFiT 2013) and Student peace prize from the 7th to 17th of February in Norway. I am humbled to have this opportunity to represent my country at this event.

ISFiT is a meeting place where future leaders are given a chance to be heard, build networks and trade ideas. It is a place where ideas are generated, discussions and debates held, experiences shared and knowledge gained. The theme of this year’s festival will be Global Trade with 16 workshops arranged in an interdisciplinary manner to allow students to explore issues directly connected to their own area of study while also providing the opportunity to engage with other students from a wide range of disciplines. It aims to foster international co-operation among students globally and inspire selected students through renowned speakers during plenary sessions. Previous speakers have included Professor Wangari Maathai, Dr. Desmond Tutu, His Holiness Dalai Lama and the former director general of WHO Dr. Gro Harlem Brundtland.

The festival strives to empower youth socially, economically and politically to promote self reliance and productive youth globally thus the festival will be beneficial to both me and my country. In order to attend this event I have to raise 1200USD to cover transportation to Norway; any amount granted will be greatly appreciated and will go directly towards funding my transportation.

Feel free to comment with ideas of how I can raise money for the airfare to eunicekkilonzo@gmail.com