THE first casualty in the East African Federation enterprise, it seems to me, is the Truth; our leaders are less than honest with one another; they shy away from telling each other the truth, and in turn are forced to be economical with the truth to their own people. This is not the best foundation for building a Federation. There is, for example, an urgent need for Tanzania to tell Kenya, Uganda and Burundi point blank that: “. . .
Look, your civil wars are not caused by natural disasters or tribalism, but by large-scale land injustice. You need to nationalise and redistribute land in your own countries before we can federate, otherwise we will be federalizing civil wars and not the East African people. Rwanda has done it and so can you.” Moreover, to state emphatically and categorically that to keep such iniquitous land policies in the proposed Federation is to keep Tanzania out.
That is not blind, sentimental or romantic nationalism, as some tricksters would portray it, but realpolitik. This is the best protection for peace in East Africa, which is the real mark of statesmanship. I would also urge Tanzania to seriously rethink this whole Federation enterprise. Kenya, for example, proved to be an unreliable partner in the past and it is proving to be an unreliable partner again right now - so why is Tanzania wasting its time on this project?
One of the main planks of the so-called Federation is to establish joined-up policies designed to harmonize economic planning and development in the region. But out of the blue Kenya announced it was going to build an international airport just across the border from Tanzania’s Kilimanjaro international airport. If that is not stabbing Tanzania in the back, what is? Where is the harmonized planning in such a venture? It is all but a chimera.
One of the main objectives of these regional economic blocs is to create a strong, unified body with sufficient clout to command attention at the bargaining table with outside entities. Rose Kamau wrote about the East African Trade Negotiation Act of 2008 thus: “. . . the Act seeks to facilitate the promotion of regional and international trade for sustainable development of member states and establish a mechanism for joint negotiations of the partner states in bilateral, regional and multilateral trade [emphasis added].”
Yet in the middle of the European Union (EU) and East African Community Economic Partnership (EAC-EPA) negotiations in 2010, Kenya declared it was going to break ranks with the EAC if it didn’t sign the Treaty with Europe, so pulling the rug from under the feet of the other EAC member states. What is the meaning of collective bargaining if one party makes such unilateral demands? From 1976, the apartheid regime in South Africa was detaining thousands of school children across the country and waging war against its neighbouring countries; according to a book by Joseph Hanlon, called Apartheid’s Second Front, the regime’s destabilization war against its neighbours between 1980 and 1986 cost “. . . more than 100,000 lives and £10,000 million and made at least one million people homeless.”
Yet, if the library of the US Congress is to be believed, Kenya maintained trade links with the Apartheid regime throughout. With such a record of lack of transparency and reliability does Kenya really possess the essential qualities needed to work in partnership with Tanzania? Kenya is conducting itself as a country without scruples; why would Tanzania want to be part of such a venture? EAC Head Office During the East African Common Market Protocol negotiations in 2009 Kenya attempted to blackmail Tanzania by implying if it did not sign a landsharing arrangement then the Headquarters of the Community would be moved elsewhere, as if having the head office in Arusha is meant to be a quid pro quo for our land.
Tanzania seriously needs to draw a line under this question of land and state categorically that there will never be a land-sharing federation with Tanzania and direct the East African prospective member states to site the 14 million Euro concrete Federation headquarters block from Germany anywhere they want if the price of it being in Arusha is the appropriation of our land. Who said the value of Tanzania’s land is only 14 million Euros?
It should be clearly understood by everyone that as far as Tanzania is concerned land is totally out of the equation, otherwise the other member states will keep on badgering Tanzania. The Kenyan government must remember that when it comes to this kind of unhelpful tit-for-tat bargaining, Tanzania holds the trump card. Kenya should be mindful of its major investments in Tanzania and its tourist industry’s heavy reliance on Tanzanian attractions (Mt Kilimanjaro, Ngorongoro Crater, Lake Manyara, the Serengeti, etc).
Tanzania should advise the Kenyan government that if it builds the planned international airport next to Kilimanjaro International Airport, then Tanzania will be free to close its borders for the purpose of tourism, regardless of what has been agreed previously; therefore, the significance of level-headed interactions cannot be over-emphasized. Before the East African Common Market protocol was signed on April 29, 2009, some politicians and the press in East Africa, led by Kenya, accused Tanzanians of dragging their feet, obstructing the integration process and of actually being a liability.
This could not be further from the truth. What Tanzania took exception to, and for good reasons, was making land a Federation matter. When the tone of those accusations grew increasingly fierce, I felt bit imperative to comment on what I saw as Kenya’s breathtaking hypocrisy. So I published articles in Tanzania’s Daily News on the January 5, 12, 19, 2009. After the signing of the East African protocol in April 2009, I wrote another article (part published in the Daily News once again), expressing my concerns regarding what I think is Tanzania’s giving in too much to the demands of the other member states.
I still consider the protocol and Federation setup to be hostile to Tanzania’s vital national interests. I urged the country then and am reiterating that message here: let us renegotiate or get out before it gets out of hand. These articles have been reproduced here as Appendices 1-3 which can be read independently as a summary of my argument and views. The Bujumbura EAC Summit The advantages of Tanzania staying out of the East African Federation are getting clearer with each passing day as the pro-federation camp’s failure to respond to Tanzania’s fears becomes ever more conspicuous; this camp is resorting to tactics of making Tanzanians feel and look stupid for failing to see the obvious, when actually there is nothing to see. This trend has become apparent once again in the EAC Summit of December 2011 held in Bujumbura, Burundi, when we glean throu
gh the statements of the major players. For instance, trying to answer fears over matters of land, the Ugandan Tourism Minister, Prof Ephraim Kamuntu, is reported as saying: “The question of land-grabbing has been expressed mostly by Tanzania, despite several assurances from Uganda and Kenya that this would not happen. That is far-fetched. Who will leave Uganda to go and take land in Kisumu?” That being the case, why are Uganda and Kenya like a dog with a bone in insisting that land be a Federation matter?
The first answer to his question is: No Ugandan will dream of going to take up land in Kisumu because there is no spare land for Kenyans themselves there, much less for Ugandans or anybody else in the region. Secondly, no Ugandan will contemplate settling in Kisumu due to the security situation; if in the heat of the moment the Kenyans can burn to death an estimated 100 fellow Kenyans sheltering in a church, as happened in Eldoret during the post-election violence in January 2008, what are they capable of doing to non-Kenyans?
Thirdly, the land fears are expressed by Tanzania so the Uganda and Kenya analogy is not well-drawn; we all know that the rest of the member states want free movement and the right of abode so that they can go to Tanzania where there is free land as well as peace; Minister Kamuntu, let us have an honest debate on the issue. Another senior official, Speaker Rebecca Kadaga, is quoted as saying the land fears were “laughable” and “unfounded”.
Such sentiment from a senior officer reveals a truly profound, and frankly frightening, lack of political reality regarding the region. Madame Speaker, for your information, all civil wars that have taken place since independence in Kenya, Uganda, Rwanda and Burundi have had their roots in the unfair distribution of resources, principally land. In Kenya for instance, huge disenchantment over land among the population has given rise to the so-called “insurgents” in the Mount Elgon area and other places; these are people with genuine land-related grievances, not common criminals as portrayed in the Kenyan press; in other words they have every justification to react in such a manner to a political system that has unjustifiably condemned them to a future without land, jobs or state benefits.
To request that Kenyan authorities resolve these problems before federation is quite reasonable, not “laughable” or “unfounded”. In Uganda, absentee landlordism exists side by side with mass landlessness; on February 17, 2011, an article on the allAfrica.com website wrote about escalating land wars in northern Uganda affecting 1.7 million internally displaced persons (IDPs). Land injustice, which usually translates into economic injustice, has also made peace illusive in both Burundi and Rwanda since independence, the latter culminating in the genocide of 1994. What is “laughable” or “unfounded” about these realities Madame Speaker?
Tanzania should stick to economic cooperation in East Africa; political federation is a con. If the other states opt for federation let them go ahead, but Tanzania should stay out. East Africa and the two Sudans East Africa extended a membership invitation to Africa’s 54th and the world’s 193rd nation state, the Republic of South Sudan, while North Sudan has, uninvited, applied to join the Federation.
The best case scenario is for the invitation to be refused and the application declined. North Sudan’s human rights record is too poor to qualify for admission to an East African Federation. As for South Sudan, I would advise it not to join the Federation; not now, for its own good. East Africa has its own gigantic, manmade land shortage to sort out before it can invite any country (especially a land rich one like South Sudan) to join without harbouring ulterior motives. East African member states inviting South Sudan to join the Federation at this juncture, while the internal land crisis remains unresolved is a cynical proposal.
However, South Sudan has made its choice and lodged its application to join the proposed East African Federation on November 11, 2011. Whether South Sudan has been too hasty or not, only time will tell. North Sudan’s application was turned down because the country is not bordering any of the existing member states. However, that means once South Sudan is admitted, the North will qualify; and to welcome that country with its poor human rights record in Darfur andSouth Sudan itself would be a disgrace to the Federation.