Countries: Burundi, Kenya, Rwanda, Tanzania and Uganda.
Topics: Youth, Students, East African Community, Debate, Regional Integration, Political Integration
Ephraim Percy Kenyanito, 20, is an Author, a Law Student, Humanitarian and a Social Entrepreneur and founder and project coordinator for "Sauti Kwa Watoto Advocacy and Communications Project" where he uses poems and drama and social media as a tool for communication by street children in Kenya. He also serves as a student intern with Transparency International- Kenya (Advocacy and Legal Advisory Centre) as part of his community outreach. He is one of the six university students who were selected to represent Kenya at the First EAC University Students Debate on EAC Political Integration in Arusha, United Republic of Tanzania as from 22nd-25th August 2012. Read his ‘story’ of how he got selected, the highlights of the event, incredible experiences and lessons he has learnt and want to inspire you with.
In his own words…
Selection process and journey to the United Republic of Tanzania
I recall when I first heard about the First EAC University Students Debate on regional integration. It was making news through university campus notice boards and through the social media and the call for application was over and over again shared across various networks. This sparked a ball of flames in my heart to at least make an effort and apply. “Wow an ultimate opportunity to network at the EAC regional level!” I told myself. With this enthusiasm, I resolved to do what is required to apply for the program.
I previously worked as the National Organizing Secretary and Deputy-President- Western Province Students' Council (WPSC) at Kenya Secondary Schools Students' Council (KSSSC), where on behalf of all secondary students in Kenya, I drafted a petition for "Learner Friendly Schools" to the government of Kenya which was presented to the UNICEF, UNESCO, Kenya's Vice President and Minister for Home Affairs, Ministers for: Education, Sports & Youth Affairs, Gender, Children and Social Services; NGO Council of Kenya among other private and social stakeholders in the Education Sector.
I was looking for another prospect to learn, share thoughts, interact and network with other young and passionate community activists and social entrepreneurs.
The First EAC University Students Debate on regional integration provided this opportunity and not only that; one could be able to interact with representatives from academia, private sector, civil society, media and technocrats from the East African region who would listen to the debate and make their comments on the strength of the deliberations and make recommendations on the way forward for the programme. The debate would be broadcasted in the EAC media and streamed live.
It took a little while until I received the magic email with a ‘Congratulations Ephraim you have been selected’ from Ms Ethel Sirengo, and Ms Kaboha Barbara both Program Assistants at the Nyerere Peace Centre at the East African Community Secretariat Office in Arusha City, United Republic of Tanzania.
My journey to the United Republic of Tanzania for the First EAC University Students Debate on regional integration began. I identified what I wanted to realize with this opportunity (or I would not have applied in the first place), I shaped my objectives, expectations and anticipations and wrote them down in my little diary and in my heart.
We were emailed a contact sheet with the names and contact details of the twenty nine (29) participants in order to contact each other before hand and to work together in the preparation for the debate. My fellow participants included: Bigirimana Désiré, Ndikumana Anatole, Nindorera Rebecca, Nsengiyumva Callixte, and Ntungane Olenka who were all from Burundi.
Those from Kenya included: Mbedy Milly Minayo, Mutua Jesse Kimani, Nangekhe Elizabeth, Oyombe Julians Amboko, Omondi Edna and Kenyanito Ephraim Percy.
Those from Rwanda Included: Mbembe Aaron Clevis, Mbembe Ye Mbembe (Adolphe), Mbonigaba Callixte, Mugabowindekwe Maurice, Muramira Gachegu and Muramira Hillary.
Those from Tanzania included: Fabian John, Arold Moses, Magoma Anthony, Maro Raymond Callyst, Mbele Frank and Ngilangwa Eric Gordon.
Those from Uganda included: Aboneka Michael, Ateenyi Rachael Kivuna, Kyobutungi Isabel, Muhindo James, Odong Amos and Tayebwa James Bamwenda.
I chose to contact them and requested them that we form a Facebook group: “East African Community Youth Platform” In which we would share individual experiences and get to know each other before the debate while still in our home countries. The link to the Facebook Group is: https://www.facebook.com/groups/285740971539542/
They responded enthusiastically and I then knew that my objectives, expectations and anticipations were being met as I hoped that I would have the chance of making life-long friendships with my fellow youth who would be participating in the debate and exchange ideas on making EAC a better integrated community and this would go a long way not only into our private friendships but also into establishing a culture of consultation in suggesting policy formulation to our governments and also since I believe some of us will end up in future governments within EAC it would be a great opportunity to network with fellow youth leaders as early as possible.
Arriving in Arusha, United Republic of Tanzania on 22nd August, 2012 at 2.00pm with my fellow Kenyans; Mbedy Milly Minayo, Mutua Jesse Kimani, Nangekhe Elizabeth, Oyombe Julians Amboko and Omondi Edna, we could not help but admit the friendly atmosphere at the city of Arusha. The town was green and thus christened, “Geneva of Africa.” This was unlike the smoky Nairobi that we had left earlier at 8.00 am East African Time.
With the theme of debate being, “understanding the benefits and challenges of regional Political Integration in East Africa”, there could not have been a better time to describe the world in which we live in, countries are forming regional integrations in order to better provide services to their citizens and EAC Youth had to meet and discuss the benefits and challenges of the integration processes. Integration in the EAC indeed is something we ought to embrace especially as young people since it provides numerous opportunities for the 70 million youth out of the 133 million citizens of the East African Community. The obligation lies on us to create the desirable future through our present actions, to develop skills that would aid us remain relevant in a swiftly changing world (a global village) with seemingly overwhelming challenges.
Appreciating that these challenges are still solvable, the First EAC University Students Debate on regional integration made us understand that as young people of East Africa, we cannot afford any inaction, fold our arms and make the same slip-ups the older generation had made. We are young, energetic and resilient. It is definitely our time! Let’s make the East African Community a better place through Economic, Socio-Cultural and Political Integration.
The interactions over coffee and lunch breaks gave me the opportunity to speak to the other 28 Youth Leaders from the East African Community Partner states. This gave me the opportunity to view East Africa differently. It was like looking through eye glasses of the over 25 country representatives to see and understand East Africa. The event provided the platform to be part of an International Community, to study, network, share concepts and best practices. All stereotyped sentiments about other countries’ cultures in our thoughts were completely expunged during and after the debate. The effectiveness of such a multi-ethnic educational experience cannot be over-emphasized.
The event was a far-reaching refresher for me. The ice-breakers, and the combination of various excitements (team work activities, networking sessions, sketches, individual and team presentations, interactive talks, Q & A sessions, tours around Arusha, Peer Mentoring group discussions) made the learning experience permanent and truly memorable. It was great learning from Ms Heidtmann Miriam, Programme Manager, EAC- GIZ Programme on Promotion of Peace and Security, Ms Isabelle Waffubwa, Principal Political Affairs Officer at the EAC Secretariat, Mr Philip Wambugu, Director of Infrastructure, EAC Secretariat (Representing the Secretary General) John Sibi- Okumu (facilitator), Lilian Muchoki of Nyerere Peace Centre, Robinson Malemo of Kenya Airports Authority, Donald Deya, Executive Director of Union Panafricaine des Avocats, Velenina Gancheva of GIZ- EAC Programme on Promotion of Peace and Security, Bob Odiko, Senior Public Relations Officer, East African Legislative Assembly, Mr Aloysius Chebet, of EAC Secretariat,
Mr Amani Mwatoroka, Official Political and Security Affairs at the United Republic of Tanzania’s Ministry of The East African Community,Mr Peter Chege Kamau, Assistant Director Regional Integration (Social Affairs) at the Republic of Kenya’s Ministry of The East African Community, Ms Taima Lydia Munganyinka of East Africa Law Society and many others.
I was able to catch up with some of the organizers and students, and representatives from academia, private sector, civil society, media and technocrats from the East African region both supporting the proposition and the opposition sides of the debate and interviewed them on the video below:
The highpoint for me was the Peer Mentoring group discussions and Q & A session session that took place on August 24, 2012. This was the most exciting learning method used at the debating event. Imagine being in 3 discussion groups and competing to answer general knowledge questions about the EAC while on a limited time.
The second highpoint for most of the debaters was that we did not compete country versus country but rather the EAC Secretariat divided us into two groups of proposition verses opposition each with 3 participants from each of the five countries. We were further divided into 3 sets whereby you had to work in a group of 5 students with students from each of the 5 EAC partner states and compete against another team with the same composition of students. The best three teams would later receive prizes.
These two were the most insightful and productive time for the students as we all sharpened our team work skills.
These highpoints paid off since at the end there were certificates and prizes for the best 5 debaters and best 3 teams. I was lucky to be awarded the best debater by the panel of judges and was also in the 3rd best team out of six.
5 of the participants were also named EAC Youth Ambassadors pending approval by EAC policy organs and these students include: Ms. Ntungane Olenka (Burundi), Ms. Milly Mbedi Minayo (Kenya), Mr. Muramira Gashegu (Rwanda), Mr. Raymond Maro (United Republic of Tanzania) and Mr. James Tayebwa Bamwenda (Uganda).
We later had a closing dinner dance Gallery (which we really enjoyed!) on 24th August 2012 after the debate. The awards were given during the dinner.
The following slides give a brief overview of the EAC Secretariat:
NCPR Presentation to students 2012
More information on the debate can be found through the EAC website and through traditional mainstream media through these links:
When we packed our bags and departed from Arusha, United Republic of Tanzania on August 25, 2012; we each had an idea on what to build from the debate and are currently working on attaining our individual goals.
Post-debate plans are to build on our current individual projects and to ensure that our community involvement activities stretch beyond our national borders and to collaborate with other EAC Youth Leaders in Youth Projects.
Each of the 29 participants (regardless of whether they opposed or supported the motion) are charged with the post-debate responsibility of being EAC Youth Ambassador and should create social awareness about the EAC Integration process through any legal and available means they can access.
Oyombe Julians Amboko has done this very well through writing letters to editors in major newspapers within the EAC and his most recent article can be accessed through: http://www.the-star.co.ke/opinions/others/92118-why-eac-integration-is-imperative
Others who have taken their new responsibilities with a lot of energy include those from Tanzania: Magoma Anthony, and Maro Raymond Callyst; who were recently hosted in East Africa Radio engaging the youth into the EAC Debate.
If you are a young person from the East African Partner states and you have just read this, I am charging you with this wake up call. You cannot let your visions and determination die while you have been endowed with the opportunities to be all you can be through the East African Community Integration. If you have not discovered your purpose yet, you have got to do so and begin to toil. Take that footstep, take that possibility, take that dare and be industrious.
Our generation needs you and the change we dream about which will be created in the EAC Partner states only YOU can help create!
Special thanks go to the EAC- GIZ Programme Officials, the panel of 5 judges, the invited representatives from academia, private sector, civil society, media and technocrats from the East African region who listened to the debate and made their comments on the strength of the deliberations and made recommendations on the way forward for the programme and the entire Nyerere Peace Centre and EAC Secretariat team for an incredible First EAC University Students Debate experience.
Written By: Ephraim Percy Kenyanito