Last week Rwanda and Burundi joined the class of 50 when they both celebrated 50 years since they attained independence from the Belgians. As far as East Africa is concerned, Tanzania opened the way when they celebrated their 50 years last year while Uganda will do so later this year; in October to be precise.
The big economy that is Kenya will have to wait for more than a year before they can pop the champagne. Meanwhile, Rwanda soon followed up its independence celebrations with the 18years anniversary of the liberation struggle that brought an end to the Genocide against the Tutsi and opened way for the country to develop and embark on a more meaningful political journey of reconciliation.
As the two countries partied away, my attention was caught and sustained by a couple of things. For example, Rwanda has its independence day so close to its liberation day, yet, the two events impacted on the country in very different ways. In other words, the two days are so close yet so far apart if you look at the outcome of each day.
Independence not only marked the separation of Rwanda from Burundi, it soon turned out to be an era where Rwandans as people, would be more separated until it all culminated in a deadly Genocide that saw the country dragged in the valley of hell.
Meanwhile, liberation has seen the country going full circle from a hopeless nation to this poster child for recovery and development. These stark differences between the two events have compelled Rwandans and Africans in general to critically think and contextualize what independence and liberation really mean to them.
Away from Kigali, Bujumbura also had a grandiose party to mark its 50 years achievement. The party was boosted by a huge delegation from Nairobi led by Mzee Mwai Kibaki. Kibaki arrived in Bujumbura with so many ministers and this caught my attention.
My reading into this was that the Kenyans were aware of the opportunities that Burundi has to offer and they were ready to take them up. Already this year, Kenya's KCB Bank has opened shop in Bujumbura joining a market that already had a Kenyan based bank - Diamond Trust Bank.
The most symbolic aspect about Burundi's independence celebrations was not the flamboyant displays by the country's army but the sight of a Citizen TV news anchor reporting live from Bujumbura. I complained a couple of months before about how regional media houses, were reluctant to cover stories in Bujumbura unless they were about an EA summit or an issue of security compromise.
Therefore, the fact that Citizen TV saw it fitting to send a camera crew from Nairobi to the shores of Lake Tanganyika is something commendable and worth noting. I have always said that we cannot achieve integration if we cannot hear the stories just across our borders. I hope other media houses follow suit and continue to cover Burundi the way they cover Rwanda, Kenya or Uganda.
Crowning Burundi's moment of glory was the news from miles away about a one Giles Bigirimana an 18 year old Burundian born player who has been signed by Newcastle football club. Bigirimana's story is quite interesting since he only moved to England in 2004 as a refugee from Burundi.
At the age of 11, he is said to have presented himself at Coventry's Academy training ground and asked for a trial. He was just from the local supermarket to buy milk. He was accepted and he quickly rose through the ranks making 28 appearances for Coventry according to UK's Daily Mal newspaper.
Now English Premier League fans can look out for Bigirimana playing in Newcastle's midfield. More interesting is the fact that he has expressed a desire to feature for Rwanda since his father is said to be Rwandan.
However, all the good news is occasionally drowned out by the conflict in neighbouring Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) and the sporadic terrorist attacks in Kenya believed to be the work of Somalia's Al Shabaab militia.
With Congo, the war has reached the border town of Bunagana that connects to Uganda consequently displacing several people. What all this points to, is that the problems of our neighbours in Somalia, DRC or even South Sudan will always spill over and affect us as a region. That is why it is very important for EAC countries to continue being part of the solution to these problems.