The new pact between Uganda and Kenya is expected to bring peace and stability in a volatile border region that has, for a long time, been notorious for armed conflict that manifests itself as cattle rustling. The area is also remote and largely undeveloped and in the grips of lawlessness fuelled by illegally owned firearms, including sophisticated automatic weapons. The bloodletting has gone on for too long, contributing to the widespread underdevelopment of the neighbouring but perennially feuding Turkana-Pokot-Karamojong communities.
The agreement signed in Uganda last week is a framework through which the two neighbours hope to turn around the situation by initiating tangible development projects. This was, indeed, long overdue. There is vast potential in these arid and semi-arid regions that cannot be exploited without opening up Thethe area by building roads and other infrastructure and boosting trade.
While this bilateral effort is commendable, especially because of the direct involvement of Presidents Uhuru Kenyatta and Yoweri Museveni, it would have had an even bigger impact as part of the initiatives of the East African Community (EAC). There is nothing wrong with two countries getting together to tackle a problem on their common border, but the regional economic bloc provides a bigger and stronger forum for that. South Sudan, also a member of the EAC, experiences similar cross-border conflict.
Hopefully, this is the beginning of a comprehensive effort to identify and exploit the vast hidden resources for development. Rampant insecurity has for years hampered implementation of key projects that could dramatically improve people’s lives. The leadership in both countries are upbeat that the time has come to unleash their huge potential. However, proliferation of illegal firearms is a challenge whose solution lies in forging a multilateral prong. Two is good, but roping in all the six EAC members, including Tanzania, South Sudan, Rwanda and Burundi, is the surest way to tame insecurity and boost development.