NAIROBI (HAN) May 31.2016. Public Diplomacy & Regional Security News. By KIARIE NJOROGE. Former Ugandan First Lady Mama Miria Obote, Kenya’s Mama Ngina Kenyatta and Mama Maria Nyerere of Tanzania will Tuesday make a public address at a special sitting of the East African Legislative Assembly (EALA) in recognition of their roles in the formation of the original regional bloc.
“EALA has honoured Mama Ngina alongside other East African independence First Ladies, Mama Miria Obote (Uganda) and Mama Maria Nyerere (Tanzania) for their contribution to the formation of the first regional bloc (1967 – 1977),” Kenya’s State House said in a statement.
EALA is the legislative arm of the regional bloc, the East African Community (EAC). The original EAC collapsed in 1977 for several reasons including ideological differences between the three states.
Kenya had embraced capitalism, Tanzania opted for socialism while Uganda oscillated between the two. The countries were also at different levels of economic development.
The 1971 coup by Idi Amin in Uganda further crippled the EAC with Tanzania refusing to recognise his rule. EAC could not meet.
The three countries revived the EAC in 2000 and have since admitted Rwanda, Burundi and South Sudan to the bloc with the ultimate aim of forming a political federation.
Among the benefits attributed to the bloc is increased trade from the bigger market of 146 million people, attracting bigger investments and furthering cross-border trade.
The appearance at the regional assembly is a rare public address for Mrs Kenyatta, 83, who is the widow of Kenya’s first president, Jomo Kenyatta, and the mother of current President Uhuru Kenyatta.
She has chosen to remain in the background and rarely makes public speeches or holds media interviews.
She is reported to have offered two media interviews in the course of her public life, the last one coming in 2010 to local vernacular radio station Kameme FM.
As the matriarch in charge of the Kenyatta family’s vast business empire, Mama Ngina presides over an enterprise that is associated with well-known commercial brands and blue chip companies.
This includes Commercial Bank of Africa (CBA), Brookside Dairy—where the President’s younger brother, Muhoho, sits as executive chairman, and luxury hotel chain, Heritage Hotels East Africa.
The family is also linked to Media Max Company, which owns K24 TV, Kameme Radio and The People newspaper. It also owns thousands of acres of prime land across Kenya.