By Boera Bisieri
Published July 11, 2017
Have you noticed just how self-righteous we East Africans have become? Holier than thou; is that not what they call it?
From Burundi to Kenya and Uganda to Tanzania, the East African Community appears to be on a mission to moralise society.
The trend of leaders of East African Community partner states appointing themselves moral prefects is becoming an infectious epidemic. And it wouldn’t be right to fault them on this. For morality is a great virtue for any society to hold onto. However, the only question for these paragons of morality is: does one not have to clean one’s own house first before trying to tidy up that of one’s neighbour?
Welcome to East Africa where the governor is also the high priest and the healer of society. In which part of the East African Community do we start our tour?
Yes, the first attempt at getting rid of ‘immorality’ in this part of the world was by Pierre Nkurunziza of Burundi when he ordered all couples ‘living in sin’ to formalise their union by the end of 2017 or face yet to be determined consequences.
Many are asking what ‘moral authority’ the ‘born-again’ Nkurunziza, he that has forced himself on Burundians and brought up conflict that has driven thousands of his people into exile in Tanzania, Rwanda and Congo-Kinshasa, has to ‘clean up’ the ‘moral fibre’ of the French-speaking central African country.
But while tongues were still wagging, Kenya, whose rate of corruption has hit pandemic levels and cost the country not just its reputations but also the loss of its closest allies—Rwanda and Uganda—in the EAC, ordered all couples in African Customary Marriages to have their union registered by the Government Law Office from August 1, 2017.
African Customary Marriage, whose roots run deeper than any other form of marriage—Christian, Islamic, Civil–in Kenya binds not just the couple but their families and clans too. What then is so moral about registering African Customary Marriages?
Unlike the Burundian case, Kenya has neither threatened nor said what it will do to couples who fail to comply with the Attorney-General’s directive.
Uganda’s directive on what civil servants should wear surprised even more East Africans. Uganda forbids public servants from wearing skirts and dresses whose hem is above the knees, sleeveless and transparent blouses, and showing of any body parts like cleavage, navel and the back. Unlike Kenya but like Burundi, Uganda says it shall punish any staff member who fails to adhere to the new dress code.
But what would be more ‘moral’ than Yoweri Mseveni ceding control of the country he has ruled with an iron fist for 31 years?
The spirit of morality did not fail to get to Tanzania where President John Magufuli has locked horns with rights groups for blocking teenage mothers from public schools. The President says the law not only forbids girls who get pregnant from ever returning to school on moral grounds but also hands down 30 years to the men who impregnate them.
But the matter has not ended there. The Government of Tanzania has threatened to de-register any non-governmental organisation that goes against President Magufuli’s order that the rul Ing Chama Cha Mapinduzi says is what the law stipulates.
Critics argue that Magufuli, popularly known as ‘bulldozer’, is overstepping his mandate. When did politicians start playing ‘moral police’, they ask.