THE idea of an East African Federation is a noble one; but the sort of federation which is currently (being planned) under way in East Africa is far from ideal because it will ultimately drive the region towards catastrophe; and this eventuality will be upon us in twenty to thirty years -- at a conservative estimate.
Being a deeply concerned Tanzanian citizen and since Tanzania will be the biggest loser in this whole fiasco, I feel dutybound to exercise both my democratic and constitutional rights of canvassing my leaders and fellow nationals through the raising of awareness of the looming storm in the frankest and most transparent way possible.
This book is my contribution towards that end. At the very outset, let me make this request to the President and Parliament of Tanzania and the Minister for East African Cooperation: Tanzania should not bow to pressure from foreign diplomats on the creation of a federation in East Africa. Foreign Diplomats have their own interests that do not coincide with the interests of Tanzania or East
It is the people of Tanzania who know what is best for them, not foreign diplomats; foreign diplomats are the least qualified to advise Tanzania on the subject, much less to put pressure on our leaders. The federation is an East African affair, the other member states; Kenya in particular, should not recruit foreigners to put pressure on the decisionmaking processes of this project. On January 22, 2012, Nimi Mweta, wrote in the Guardian On Sunday Newspaper: “. . . diplomats had to approach JK [Tanzanian President Jakaya Kikwete] to make some precisions on the subject [of federation], so that strategic clarity was gained and companies as well as sovereign states may know what to expect.”
This is clear meddling in the internal affairs of Tanzania and East Africa; in fact it is an insult for the diplomats to make such demands on the Tanzanian President; no African diplomat would be allowed to seek such “precisions” from the European Union integration processes. Those diplomats should be strongly reminded that they are in Tanzania and not in Kenya and that Tanzania is not a province of Kenya; foreign countries and companies may own Kenya, but Tanzania is owned by the Tanzanians themselves.
It has been alleged that ambassadors in Kenya obliquely rule the country. Writing for The Independent newspaper of London, Daniel Howden observed: “A survey of recent headlines in Nairobi reveals a curious development in Kenya. It appears that foreign ambassadors have taken the role traditionally played by an elected opposition.” While Kenya’s former head of anti-corruption bureau, John Githongo, was quoted in the same article as saying:
“You have envoys acting and talking as though they were Members of Parliament”; the murdered Maasai lawyer, Elijah Marima Ole Sempeta, was quoted by the East African Standard, on September 1, 2004: “The British own and control all resources of this country. . . . Kenya’s independence is a fallacy and there is documentation that can prove it.” This may explain why some people want a “fast track” Federation process, because the longer it goes on, the more inconvenient truths emerge.
The East African Federation project has been hijacked by foreign interests; and foreigners cannot be behind it for the benefit of East Africans, let us get that clear from the start. Collective decisions Simply put, Tanzania has a very mature attitude towards collective decision-making which is based on its highly-principled civilisation developed since independence in 1961; a culture of saying what we mean and meaning what we say.
Once a collective decision has been made in Tanzania it is final, no sitting on the fence or playing ridiculous games of cat-and-mouse. The land question in the proposed East African Federation was settled during the 10 negotiation of the Common Market Protocol in April 2009 and that decision was quite clear - that land is not a communal matter and was left under the jurisdiction of the individual states. Why then bring up the subject of land again at the 13th Ordinary Summit of the East African Community in December 2011?
Have the other member states forgotten what they signed up to in 2009? Or were they trying to play a game of “Let’s leave it for now - we’ll get them next time around?” Was that the spirit in which our “partners” signed the protocol on 29 April, 2009? Tanzania was absolutely right not to engage in the absurd games the other member states are playing and instead to unequivocally restate the country’s -- and the East African Treaty’s position -- on the land issue. The Tanzanian Minister for East African Cooperation, Mr Samuel Sitta, stated: “We have told ministers representing other member states that Tanzania is not interested in further discussions of the issue of land.
It was completed before signing the Common Market Protocol.” The Guardian, Tanzania, December 2, 2011. The proposed East African Federation is a charade; since land is the real goal of the other prospective member states, then Tanzania should advise them to form a land federation with South Sudan; it has plenty of land and in fact that is perhaps why the entire Cabinet of South Sudan was invited to Kenya. Let them go ahead. When they start slaughtering one another, Tanzania will bring them to the negotiating table, as it did in the post-election violence of 2007 in Kenya; but never should Tanzania put itself where it can be the victim. Frankly, there is no desire for a genuine federation here; it is all about Tanzania’s land, and we should say a resounding “No”.
Major loser I contend that Tanzania will be the biggest loser when this foreign-driven East African Federation descends into civil war. Why? Ever since independence, Tanzania has known peaceful co-existence between the various ethnic and tribal groupings in the country. There are more than 126 tribes in Tanzania, yet there have been no inter-tribal killings since independence. However, in Kenya, Uganda, Rwanda and Burundi inter-tribal massacres have been a common and periodic occurrence.
So, when this ill-conceived Federation brings about civil wars, Tanzania will be losing on two levels. Firstly, it will have its first experience of internecine conflicts. Secondly, the war will be fought in Tanzania, because it will be a war of land - Tanzanians fighting to regain their land that will have been taken over by other East Africans under the guise of “federal citizenship”. This means there will be peace in Kenya, Uganda, Rwanda and Burundi, but no peace in Tanzania.
It is painful to watch how Tanzanians are being hoodwinked into this whole project -- hoodwinked by their fellow East Africans; and hoodwinked by foreign backers who are supporting this enterprise in its current form. What is going on in East Africa today, I can say with a degree of confidence, has very little or nothing to do with pan-East Africanism, pan-Africanism or African unity; it has very little or nothing to do with free market or globalisation imperatives, but it is rather a scheme skillfully designed by land-hoarders in Kenya, Uganda, Rwanda, and Burundi at the expense of Tanzania.
If this is not the case, then let us delete immediately all references to land-sharing, free movement of people, common passport and permanent residence features from all East African treaties, because all of these are purely peripheral to the effective economic cooperation and development of East Africa. The principal objective of an East African Federation should not be the building of an empire, but rather the improvement of ordinary East Africans’ economic lot; a goal that can be achieved without a federation. So, to insist on the necessity of one is not only a red herring but a downright con.
Continues next week.........