Sunday, December 15, 2013

On The East African Community, and the Coalition of the Willing

During Kenya’s 50th anniversary celebrations of independence from classical colonialism at the Kasarani Stadium, there were three interesting things that happened with relation to the East African Community (EAC) and by extension the Coalition of the Willing (CoW).
First, both Presidents Jakaya Kikwete of Tanzania and Yoweri Museveni of Uganda addressed the gathering in Kiswahili. For the Wapenzi wa Kiswahili, this was an extremely important step towards promoting Kiswahili as the lingua franca of the region. They could have chosen to speak in English (just like President Uhuru Kenyatta did), and hence reach out to everyone, including the foreign guests, but they did not. This is because their messages were focused at the hearts of the Kenyan masses.
Secondly, President Kikwete spoke very well of Kenya’s economy, he spoke about the tensions within the EAC, and more importantly, he acknowledged the fact that the peoples of Tanzania and Kenya were very close to each other, and that Tanzania was firmly in the EAC.
The third interesting thing was that all the Presidents in the EAC were present, except President Paul Kagame, who instead chose to send his Prime Minister and a few traditional dancers to represent him. President Joseph Kabila was also in attendance. This was interesting because Kagame rarely misses any chance to come to Kenya, and it raised eyebrows given the recent developments in the EAC.

The problems within the EAC (and the CoW)
In the recent past, there have been serious tensions between Tanzania and Rwanda, over the constant interference of DRC’s internal matters by Rwanda. Tanzania took a progressive stand, and together with other SADC forces (including Congolese forces) moved into DRC and kicked the Kigali backed M23 rebels out.
There were also rumours that Kagame wanted to start a civil conflict in Western Tanzania, and this led to the kicking out of Rwandan Nationals living in that region.
The other major tension within the EAC was with the formation of the CoW (Kenya, Uganda and Rwanda), where Tanzania cried foul and even threatened to withdraw from the EAC. In a counter move, Tanzania formed its own coalition with Burundi and the DRC. Economically speaking, this was a great counter, given the immense wealth of the DRC vis-a-vis that of the CoW countries.
Frantic efforts were made by both Kenya and Tanzania to lessen the tensions, with Tanzania’s FM stating that they “had now agreed to work together”, and said something to the effect that they have now learnt that “some people (Kagame and Museveni) wanted to take advantage of Kenya’s young leadership to advance their personal interests in the region.”
What happened after those meetings was even more interesting. It seems that what we were not told about those talks was that Tanzania may have demanded that Paul Kagame does not succeed Museveni as the rotational Chair of the EAC, and Kenya must have agreed to that demand, and so as to save Kagame’s face, Rwanda had to create excuses of Kagame’s “busy schedule next year since it was the 20th anniversary of the Rwandan genocide.” This could explain Kagame’s skipping of the Kenya @50 celebrations, and further explains Kikwete’s conciliatory tone at the same event. (this Rwanda-Tanzania tension within the EAC is not new; 14 years ago, it is Tanzania that opposed Rwanda’s membership into the EAC, keeping it in the cold for 10 years)

Tanzania should rescind its backward stand
But even with the progress made in terms of mending fences, Tanzania must revoke its backward stand, if the EAC is to become a reality.
Tanzania’s approach on the EAC has been that of fear and mistrust. They fear that their land will be taken away, their businesspeople will lose to their Kenyan counterparts, they fear that they will lose jobs to the other EAC partners etc,,and they have therefore used  every opportunity to halt/slowdown the integration of the EAC countries. Tanzania seems to be hostile to the idea of Political Unity, and it is instead pushing for slow economic unity first. This is in great contrast to its position in the EAC of 1967-1977 where Mwalimu Julius Nyerere was at the forefront of pushing for Political Unity of the three countries.
Earlier, Mwalimu Nyerere had pushed for the delay of Tanzania’s and Uganda’s independence, so that the three countries could gain their independence on the same date.
 In an interview with Ikaweba Bunting for the New Internationalist Magazine in 1999, Nyerere said: “I respected Jomo (Kenyatta) immensely. It has probably never happened before in history. Two heads of state, Milton Obote [Uganda's leader] and I, went to Jomo and said to him: `let's unite our countries and you be our head of state'. He said no. I think he said no because it would have put him out of his element as a Kikuyu Elder.
That was how much Tanzania supported political Unity, back then.

During the CoW debate, President Kikwete gave an address to the Tanzanian Parliament, where he said that Tanzania was committed to a Political Union, but before that, Tanzania would have to gain economically since according to him, a political union would be baseless without economic gain. He further used the example of the Union between Tanganyika and Zanzibar, the oldest political union in Africa, to prove just how committed Tanzania is to Political Unity.
These are two things that Kikwete grasps in an upside down manner. First, the union between Tanganyika and Zanzibar was Political from the start. If it were to take the economic route first, then Tanganyika would have no basis of forming any union with Zanzibar. The fact the Kiwete used the Tanganyika-Zanzibar example shows that he was deep asleep when Mwalimu Nyerere was teaching us about Unity.
Secondly, economic unity does not bring Political unity, neither is it the basis of Political unity. The tribulations in the European Union have proved that economic union is a risk, if political decisions are made separately.
If economics alone is what brings countries together, then Kenya and Uganda would have been one country by now.
What unites a Garba herder in Moyale and a Kisii peasant in Nyamira is the ‘Kenya Political Union’. In fact, there is very little economic union between that Moyale herder and that Nyamira Peasant. It is because of this Political Union that the Nyamira peasant will be more saddened and angered when the Moyale herder is attacked by militias from Ethiopia, than he would be when the same militia attacks Ethiopian Garba herders in the Ethiopian side of Moyale.
Africa/African Regions should first be united politically, and then the other struggles follow. The EAC should allow its citizens to move, work, live and own property wherever they want within the EAC. The streamlining of language, education, laws, governance systems, transport and communication etc should then follow.

What we have now is aloof
The present EAC arrangement is out of touch with the common Mwananchi. Other than these wrangles, the common Mwananchi is never aware of what goes on at the EAC summit meetings, Council meetings, EALA sittings, EACJ rulings etc.
Even Richard Sezibera, the EAC Secretary General is a little known individual outside Rwanda. (Maybe in the short term, the EAC treaty should be amended to change the way the Secretary General is appointed, and give more power to that office. It would be better if the Secretary General went through some form of elections while maintaining the country rotations, rather than present system of presidential appointments.)
Today, the EAC matters belong to Governments, big business, foreign interests, and interested citizens, in that order.
The progressive Common Markets Protocol signed three years ago is deliberately being sabotaged; Good on paper, non-existent on the ground.
Some quarters blame the media for the black out, but each of these member countries have their own state owned media outlets.

Unity will still be achieved in the whole of Africa, not just in the EAC
Some of our leaders think that they can divide the people just because they are in power, but there is more that unites the African people, than the imaginary lines and ideas that are used to divide them. In the long term, African integration is inevitable.
Even here in East Africa, countries have in the past gone to war against each other, borders have been closed, stereotypes have been promoted, but still the integration talk has refused to leave. The Maasais, the Kurias, the Tesos, the Taitas and many other peoples along the borders still visit/receive their relatives and friends without giving any considerations to the colonial borders and the existing restrictions. Kenyan Youths will continue occupying Dar es Salaam for their holidays, Kenyan students are a permanent feature in Ugandan colleges, Chaga traders run Gikomba clothes market, Ugandan workers are running South Sudan, Tanzanian musicians are household names in Kenya, East Africa Radio and TV have followers throughout the region and Kiswahili is growing in the region, uniting the People.
Panafricanists should continue to intensify their work towards African Unity and integration, including regional Unity and Integration.

But even as the integration of the EAC continues, serious efforts should be made to change that thing that they call East Africa Community National Anthem. First, the tune is so boring that it sounds unAfrican, and the lyrics are uninspiring. Who approved that thing?

There were many other interesting things that happened during the #KenyaAt50 celebrations, and one of them was the Presence of President Mohamed Abdelaziz of Western Sahara.
President Uhuru Kenyatta’s government has been getting it very wrong on internal matters, but when it comes to external affairs, he has been on the very correct path.
 Kenya is set to host a PLO embassy; The embassy of Western Sahara will be reopened soon; Kenya will open embassies in Cuba, Algeria, Ghana, Angola and Djibouti; Visas for Africans will be processed at the point of entry (though he should get rid of the term” based on reciprocity”), Kenya will contribute thousands of troops to the yet to be formed African stand-by Brigade, Kenya has managed to mobilise Africans against the West’s imperial interests............we are truly living in interesting times.
President Mohamed Abdelaziz of Western Sahara with President Uhuru Kenyatta of Kenya
at the Kenya @50 Celebrations in Nairobi Kenya

Benedict Wachira
15th December 2013

1 comment:

  1. wow am happy that Kenyans support the western sahara polisario....kudos