Wednesday, February 3, 2010

EAST AFRICA POLITICAL FEDERATION IS AN ILLUSION

Regional integrations that enhance the quality of life for citizens of individual countries should be encouraged and solidified. The success stories of Africa’s regional bodies includes: COMESA, SADC, ECOWAS, NEPAD and ECOMOG, although the latter is more on peace keeping operations in the West African region. The much talked about East Africa political federation by the year 2012 with a fast-track implementation document authored by Kenya’s attorney General Amos Wako, is a reflection of how the East African regional leaders have lost track of the pertinent and most urgent problems bedevilling their nations. It’s futile and political fiction to talk of a full political federation for Rwanda, Burundi, Kenya, Tanzania, Uganda and ultimately, Southern Sudan under one President by 2012. Each of these Countries has their home-grown problems that require home grown solutions before talking about a full fledged political federation. There are more urgent issues to be tackled by the said countries like building stable economies, reduction of poverty through fighting unemployment, enhancing peace and security, nurturing better education systems and building an effective transportation and communication networks. Its na├»ve to talk of a political federation for East Africa when Rwanda, Burundi, Tanzania and Uganda do not have a proper road linkage with southern Sudan, leave alone a telecommunication network. Rwanda is yet to recover from the genocide of 1994 by nurturing peace, unity and harmony amongst her two tribes; the Hutus and Tutsis. Southern Sudan faces even more challenges to stabilize as an independent nation after its secession from the rich Islamic North. Uganda, which has undergone tremendous improvement under President Yoweri Museveni, has to effectively contain her Northern part controlled by rebels; the Lords Resistance Army (LRA); remembering that Museveni is the chief architect of a full-fledged East African political Federation by 2012. Tanzania faces even more challenges to effectively compete especially on trade and commerce due to the -socialistic ideologies that were entrenched by the late President Julius Nyerere. It needs to be more aggressive in her approaches towards issues of trade in the region. The country also needs to build a better education system based on modern professional needs of the region since it has the weakest education system in East Africa. The worst part is the Country’s headstrong fixation towards Swahili language with little accommodation to English; the most used language in the world. In Kenya, we face more challenges as a country especially the deep-rooted tribalism, occasional tribal clashes, corruption, impartiality in the judicial system, rampant fraudulent deals in government and private sector, shaky political party structures with no ideology and procrastination to implement government findings and public inquests. The delay by President Kibaki to give the Country a new constitution is a home- grown problem that needs to be addressed by Kenya before thinking of a political federation. It’s easy to tackle a crisis affecting one hundred people than that which affects a million people. The most intriguing aspect for the demise of East African Community in 1977 after ten years in existence was a feeling by Uganda and Tanzania that Kenya was gaining more economically from the integration. In other words, have the challenges that paved the way for the Community’s demise been addressed? With the entrenchment of Rwanda, Burundi and possibly Southern Sudan, the challenges of maintaining the union are likely to be more cumbersome and fluidly than when it encompassed Kenya, Uganda and Tanzania. This brings to light The Customs Union that came into force in 2005, and when taken seriously, contains serious negative economic implications especially for Kenya, with a positive scale for Tanzania and Uganda. Kenya pays export duty for all her exports to Uganda and Tanzania while the two don’t, just because our economy is bigger and advanced. When you tell a Kenyan citizen of this, it will appear that we as a people will be labouring for others especially when a full-fledged political federation is achieved predictably by 2012. Kenya is where it is because her people have worked hard to reach the current levels. The best way the East African Countries can help their citizens is not through a political federation but to take advantage of each others strengths. That is why I agree with Kabete MP honourable Paul Muite that the member states shall have a lot to gain if they cooperate more in the economic front. While the former Attorney general Charles Njonjo raised pregnant points in the media recently on his dislike of the East Africa Community (EAC), it can be observed that we need social, economic, cultural and political cooperation that will not necessarily evolve into a political federation. Kenya needs to learn from Tanzania’s quality political party structures, for instance how Chama Cha Mapinduzi (CCM) Party has managed to solidify itself and kept it’s ideology since independence. In Tanzania, we have few political parties a lesson for Kenya which has over 85 registered political parties. Tanzania’s effective police force, committed civil service compared to Kenya’s demoralized lot, are key aspects we need to learn from our neighbours. It’s worthy to note that the current sanity on Kenya’s public transport system is borrowed from Uganda. Countries with a better education curriculum should learn from one another; Uganda needs Swahili while Tanzania needs English. Another key aspect for East African Countries is to consolidate her efforts as a region to speak with one voice especially in negotiating for positions in multilateral forums to bargain for a single candidate for East Africa. This has worked well on Countries of the Arab league. Finally, any regional integration in any part of the world must first focus on the reaping benefits of their integration to their population. That is why East Africa should focus on how they can spur their people’s standard of living instead of focussing to create false bureaucracies that may never yield any advantage for the people of the region. Joseph Lister Nyaringo
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