It has been reported that at the recently concluded summit in Burundi (November 2011), the East African community leaders have instructed the secretariat to issue new guidelines on the form of East African economic integration and political federation that is suitable for the region.
We need to understand two things very clearly:
1. The definition of a federation and how it works in theory and particularly in practice drawing on relevant lessons of federal states that include United States of America, Canada, India, Germany and Switzerland;
2. The background to the idea of economic integration and political federation in East Africa and steps taken to implement it among the three countries of Kenya, Tanzania and Uganda and the difficulties that have been experienced among the three countries plus Burundi and Rwanda.
Federation or federalism is a political system in which the national (central) government shares power with local (state) governments. It derives its power from the people who must understand the merits and demerits and take informed decisions.
Ugandans are justifiably engaged in debates, conferences and diplomatic outreach activities in search of a permanent solution to the daunting political economy challenges. They are calling for unity and removal of NRM from power as the first step towards realizing justice for all.
Justice simply means fairness and equal opportunity for all. And justice goes with liberty, democracy, dignity and happiness. Uganda’s challenges at home and within the East African context originate principally from the absence of justice that has bred fear of domination and exploitation. Justice has not been served since different communities were pooled together in what became Uganda.
Policies adopted to conquer, administer and exploit Uganda’s resources introduced an unjust system. Individuals, groups or regions were rewarded or punished for various reasons; the indirect rule system created rulers and ruled. A system of economic growth centers and cheap labor reserves and discrimination in recruiting soldiers created regional imbalances. The desire to create tribal units for administrative convenience lumped people together in an unequal relationship.