From 2pm to about 4:30pm on Saturday afternoon, a small crowd waited patiently at Kololo ceremonial grounds for a historic rally to be addressed by the five presidents of the East African Community (EAC).
The rally was the final leg of the 15th EAC summit held at the Commonwealth Resort, Munyonyo, on November 30.
According to the National Organizing committee (NOC), it had been hoped that by 2pm, activities at Munyonyo would be complete to allow the presidents, Jakaya Kikwete (Tanzania), Uhuru Kenyatta (Kenya), Paul Kagame (Rwanda), Pierre Nkurunziza (Burundi) and their host Museveni to attend the rally.
The much-publicized rally however, lost its spark when only Museveni showed up. The rest of the presidents stayed away, reportedly at the urging of their protocol teams which cited security issues.
We have been told that the presidents were also sceptical of Museveni’s interest in the rally, largely seen as an attempt to boost his agenda of having an East African political federation by 2015.
The rebuff followed a lengthy closed-door meeting of the presidents at Munyonyo. While dialogue on the monetary union went according to plan, the idea of fast-tracking the EAC federation didn’t get as much enthusiasm as Museveni had expected.
Even the president’s colleagues in ‘the coalition of the willing’ (Kenya and Rwanda) were not willing to fast-track the political federation.
We understand that this meeting had been scheduled to last two hours but delegates were kept waiting until after 4:30pm.
“[it had been] hoped that they would be through with their closed session by midday and would then go for the signing of the joint communiqué and then have lunch, and thereafter go to Kololo,” a source told us.
NOC members at Kololo, meanwhile, paced up and down preparing for the rally, not knowing that the host, Museveni, was having a tough time at Munyonyo, trying to persuade his colleagues to attend.
Having failed, Museveni went to Kololo alone and briefly addressed the gathering.
Coalition of the cautious
Three of the five EAC leaders, Museveni, Kenyatta and Kagame, met in Uganda in June and discussed ambitious infrastructure projects as well as political federation.
The trio, which later came to be referred to as ‘coalition of the willing’, agreed to meet every two months to review progress and indeed meetings were subsequently held in Mombasa and Kigali. Their counterparts, Kikwete and Nkurunziza, seen as hesitant partners, watched from the sidelines and at some point it was rumoured they would form a rival bloc alongside DR Congo.
It was even feared that Kikwete would boycott the Munyonyo summit after he openly voiced his misgivings about his colleagues. Unlike his colleagues who spent Friday evening in Kampala, Kikwete arrived on Saturday morning. He reportedly told his counterparts that although Tanzania would not block the fast tracking of the political federation, its focus was more on infrastructural developments.
This opened the way for other presidents to speak, and it turned out Rwanda expressed her readiness to join the political federation but only in 2026. This was seen as a blow to Museveni who is pushing for the federation to happen as soon as 2015.
“At the formation of the ‘coalition of the willing’, Mzee [Museveni] made several concessions to Kenya and Rwanda hoping that they would support him on his push for the political federation, but [it was heart-breaking] when they told him that they were not ready,” a source told us.
“Rwanda said they were still recovering from the  genocide and at the same time preparing for the post-Kagame transition, while Kenya is pre-occupied with the ICC case against its president and vice president [William Ruto], so they said they were not ready,” added the source.
So, while Tanzania and Burundi had sough to be seen as part of the ‘coalition of the willing’, they now appear to have recruited Kenya and Rwanda into a four-some coalition of the cautious, leaving a zealous President Museveni a little isolated.
Last week’s ugly scenes in Kampala that followed Kampala Capital City Authority’s (KCCA) attempt to impeach the lord mayor tainted the country’s international image. Advance protocol teams, already in the country at the time, were reportedly alarmed and warned their heads of state of a potential backlash from the still unhappy public if a public rally were held.
The impeachment and the scenes that followed became matters of discussion, especially at the council of ministers’ meeting at Munyonyo.
“The delegates were closely following what was happening and when they saw pictures of the police dragging Lukwago’s lawyer [Abdullah Kiwanuka], they got deeply concerned,” said our source.
One Kenyan official is reported to have remarked “Siasa ya Uganda nio mbofu”, literally meaning that “Uganda’s politics is hopeless.”
A Tanzanian delegate was quoted as saying that they could not federate with a country where members of the opposition are dragged and beaten on the streets.
“If you can’t allow the opposition in the position of city mayor, how can you invite us for a coalition?” the delegate remarked.
Consequently, the presidents declined all assurances of security at the Kololo rally. However, another source said the late arrival of Kikwete and thus the late ending of the summit had made the rally untenable.