Youth Accountability in the East African Community
Youth in the East African Community (EAC) constitute more than 63% of the population. Therefore they are the largest portion of the active population and significant stakeholders in the integration process. Article 120(c) of The Treaty for the Establishment of the East African Community captures how integral we are as it states that, ‘The Partner states undertake to closely cooperate amongst themselves in the field of social welfare with respect to the development and adaptation of a Common approach towards the disadvantaged and marginalized groups, including…the Youth.’
Integration is an aspirational process and progressive goal. It is the youth who will ultimately realize and enjoy its fruits. As such, it is important that the youth take part in crafting and mainstreaming the integration agenda. We have a key role to play in ensuring the integration process is strengthened and comprehended so as it to make it sustainable reality. To that end there are a number of ongoing youth initiatives such as the East African Community Youth Ambassadors Platform (EAC-YAP). On its part, the African Youth Charter, recognizes efforts made by state parties and civil societies to address the economic, social, educational, cultural and spiritual needs of youth. Citizens, especially youth, are very impressed by this integration process.
Essentially, the future of the EAC depends on youth. So, any attempt to fast-track the process of integration without a proactive and assertive sensitization and educative campaign of its tremendous advantages to the public, especially the youth could endanger it and even lead to another collapse of the community in the near future. This is because the current crop of young people, which will certainly be in charge of our national agenda then, would not have been ingrained with the notion of integration.
Since 2012 the EAC's Nyerere Centre for Peace Research (NCPR) has been organizing the annual EAC University Students Debate on Regional Integration. The aim of the debate is to provide a platform to promote dialogue among university students across East Africa and thus motivate them to advocate for regional integration initiatives. After the 3rd annual debate, a team of Youth Ambassadors were appointed from the Partner States. Our responsibility has been to advocate for EAC Integration by conducting sensitizing, educating and engaging our peers at the national level. As a Youth Ambassador of Tanzania, I would like to share my thoughts about the role and prospects of African youth.
Youth Movement in Africa
When the African Union's (AU) Head of States and Governments met in Banjul, Gambia, from 1-2 July 2006, one of the significant outcomes of the meeting was to endorse the African Youth Charter (AYC). According to AU, the Charter is both a political and legal document, serving as the strategic framework that gives direction for youth empowerment and development, not only at the continental level but also at regional and national levels. It also "aims to strengthen, reinforce and consolidate efforts to empower us through meaningful youth participation and equal partnership in driving Africa’s development agenda." Hence it refers to "the rights, freedoms and duties of youth in Africa". Moreover, the charter laid down the foundation for the Youth Division of African Union Commission. This is how it describes our movement:
"About 65% of the total population of Africa are below the age of 35 years, and over 35% are between the ages of 15 and 35 years – making Africa the most youthful continent. By 2020, it is projected that out of 4 people, 3 will be on average 20 years old. About 10 million young African youth arrive each year on the labour market. With multiple projects empowering the youth all over Africa, networks of informed youngsters are rising and making a change in their lives and those around them towards creating a better Africa."
Youth Movement in the East African Community
Although constituting 63% of the total population, youth in EAC remain voiceless and less engaged in decision-making bodies and development agenda even on matters that should be championed by youth. All over East Africa, youth are still demanding for their rights of being included in development and decision-making bodies based as it is the case with gender and people with disability. In the case of Tanzania, the youth formed a movement to demand a body or platform in which will have the power to demand for our rights. In 2015 the Parliament passed a bill which became a law for establishing the Youth Council of Tanzania. However, until today there is less efforts on its establishment on the ground. Burundi has a slightly similar experience as Tanzania. Although they have established a youth platform, it is not constitutional. Kenya, Uganda and Rwanda have established Youth councils. The efforts made in every member state to constitute youth bodies also needs to be replicated at the regional level, that is, through youth representation in the East African Legislative Assembly (EALA) and other governance bodies in the East African Community(EAC).
It is interesting to note that in 2016 the Aga Khan University launched its East Africa Youth Survey Report. Their findings indicates that, in the case of integrity, "21-58% believed it doesn’t matter how one makes money as long as one does not end up in jail; 30-58% admire those who make money through hook or crook; 8-45%% believe corruption is profitable; 73-75% are afraid to stand up for what is right for fear of retribution; Only 10-44% of the youth would readily take or give a bribe. Only 27-42% strongly believe that it is important to pay taxes."
This report also had this say about this crisis of integrity: "Up to 45% of the youth believe corruption is profitable and up to 58% would do anything to make money. Only 40% would pay taxes on earned income and up to 73% are afraid to stand up for the truth for fear of retribution. With the exception of Rwanda, corruption in the public sector, and indeed across all sectors of society has reached a crisis proportion. The government of Uganda recognizes that corruption poses a major challenge to good governance. In Tanzania President Magufuli campaigned on a platform of integrity and the restoration of the ethos of hard work. In Kenya President Kenyatta said corruption was a national security threat and costs Kenyans about 250,000 jobs every year...."
Transparency International's (TI) reports also place Rwanda ahead of other countries EAC in the war against corruption. Tanzania has also made substantial progress in this war in the first year of the fifth phase government. In order replicate these apparent success stories, it is important for this war to be coordinated, not only at the national level, but also at the regional level through EALA etc.
EALA should thus come up with a strong strategy on how to fight corruption collectively by focusing on youth as the future fabric of society. If we need steady and sustainable development, we should put much efforts as a community. Constitutionalism and the rule of law should be the core angle in which EALA should deal with corruption. The EAC should now start formulating of joint army that can help to remove leaders in power if they are not respecting the Constitution. But citizens should also be sensitized on being responsible by fully engaging in the constitution-making process and hold accountable leaders who hold power unconstitutionally. Our EAC should not only respect economic agreements among member states but also human rights and the rule of law in which every citizen has the same chance to contribute in governance.
We have recently observed how one person with coercive power can violate the constitution and creates chaos that has made EAC become a pool of refugees again with a negative impact on the environment and health in the region. The EAC should learn from ECOWAS in terms of constitutional respect and leadership exchange. The process of integration must be rooted in the people like our motto of “one people one destiny”. For it is only when people are empowered to appreciate the advantages of a customs union, common market, monetary union and lastly political federation that we can confidently assert that the community will survive. This is the community Mwalimu Nyerere and other Pan-African champions of African Unity and Freedom dreamt about.
Recognizing that Article 50 of the EAC Treaty on Election of Members to EAL provides that the "National Assembly of each Partner State shall elect, not from among its members, nine members of the Assembly, who shall represent as much as it is feasible, the various political parties represented in the National Assembly, shades of opinion, gender and other special interest groups in that Partner State, in accordance with such procedure as the National Assembly of each Partner State may determine.", Rwanda has managed to allocate one slot for youth. Hence Rwandese youths are well represented in EALA. Uganda is doing so. A call to my country, Tanzania, where the members of parliament will soon elect members of EALA, is that we should remember that the current parliament has a lot of youth. It is the case because we are many in the country and hence the need for a form of representation which reflects our demography. This should equally apply to EALA where among nine members from every country, one should be youth. My call to the current Speaker of the Tanzanian Parliament, Hon. Job Ndugai, is to address this matter.
I would also like to thank all outgoing EALA for their tremendous work. Their effort on their mission will remain a mark to be honored and implemented amongst youth. Hon. Speaker Dan Kidega who was a real brother and friend to the youth community in EAC but also former Secretary General to EAC, Ambassador Richard Sezibera, for his initiative to ensure that all young people should take responsibility in leadership and governance bodies in EAC. Ms. Barbara Kaboha at the NPRC for support. Outgoing Tanzania's members of EALA: Hon. Makongoro Nyerere, Hon. Shyrose Bhanji, Hon. Adam Kimbisa, Hon. Angela Kizigha, Hon. Bernard Murunya, Hon. Abdullah Mwinyi, Hon. Dr. Nderakindo Kessy, Hon. Issa Tasilima and Hon. Maryam Ussi Yahya. It is about time to pass the leadership baton to more youth of East Africa.
We can surely build our East African youth for the future of EAC.