Challenges and opportunities of E.A. Cooperation

Radio Munansi English program February 9, 2013

This is Eric Kashambuzi communicating from New York

Greetings: fellow Ugandans at home and abroad, friends and well wishers. Welcome to the program. We look forward to your active participation because this is an interactive program.

During the last two weeks, we discussed Uganda’s population growth and birth control, migration and refugees and their impact on population growth and on politics, economy and social services as well as the environment, leading to conflicts with indigenous people.

Today we want to continue this debate within the context of the East African economic integration and political federation by examining the history, challenges and opportunities.

I have written extensively on this subject and the articles are posted at for easy reference. I will therefore make a brief presentation to guide the debate. Please call in and give us your views or correct me should you disagree with my presentation.

Ugandans have not had a chance to discuss this very important subject. What they have been told are the assumed benefits of larger population in terms of creating a bigger market for Uganda goods and services and a common passport that would facilitate mobility within the community.

There is a problem with this approach. What matters is not so much population numbers but the effective demand for goods and services. Adding together poor populations in an East African community will not help much. What matters also is whether Uganda can compete in the expanded market. Can Uganda compete with Kenya in exporting manufactured products and skilled labor?

Some countries will benefit and others will lose. For example, Kenya with a broader industrial base, a larger pool of skilled labor and high population density on agricultural land and urban overcrowding will benefit disproportionately by exporting goods, services and excess population. Excess Kenyan population will go to Uganda and Tanzania because Burundi and Rwanda are already congested. Thus in terms of population mobility, Kenya, Rwanda and Burundi will benefit by exporting their surplus populations and livestock to Uganda and Tanzania putting pressure on resources and competition in the labor market.

Since colonial days Uganda has recorded trade deficits in the East African cooperation and has been a net recipient of population and livestock from neighboring countries. During a mission to Burundi, officials made it clear that their surplus population will be absorbed within the East African community and therefore birth control was not a priority.

The benefits of a common East African passport have been exaggerated. To be able to travel from say Kampala to Dar and back, you need money to purchase a ticket and pay hotel bills and local travel costs. How many Ugandans and how often will they do that?

Overall Uganda stands to lose and our negotiators need to be aware of this reality. The first East African community collapsed within ten years (1966 1977). The challenges then in the economic, ideological and leader personality are still with us and could possibly have increased with admission of Burundi and Rwanda. I worked in the first community and I am familiar with those challenges. Kenya and Tanzania couldn’t even agree on the production and marketing of razor blades!

The East African political federation is not a new idea either. It too ran into difficulties and could not take off in 1963 because of resistance from Uganda. Overall, the record of federation has been marked more by failure than success. Nancy Bermeo has warned against the dangers of imposed federation. It is noted that “In each of the post-communist cases, failed federalism was the legacy of imposed rule and of a past shaped by a dictatorial party. The countries that broke away from the Soviet Union had their federal imposed on them by … Moscow at the end of World War II”. For example, “In Czechoslovakia, federalism was imposed by the Soviets in 1968 as a means of isolating the Czech region, where the liberalizing forces behind the Prague Spring were based”.

A federal process needs to be conducted on a voluntary basis within the framework of partnership. Where federal systems were imposed such as the British West Indies Federation (1958-62), British Central African Federation (1953-63), Ethiopia-Eritrea by UN Resolution (1952-1962), Indonesia (1949-50), Malaysia-Singapore (1963-1965) and Pakistan (1947-1961) they were short-lived (L. Diamond and M. F. Plattner 2009).

East African community governments should take these lessons into account as they forge ahead with East African political federation.

Let us briefly examine the history of East African economic integration and federation and the challenges involved. It is important to note that the three East African British territories of Kenya, Tanganyika and Uganda resisted a closer union in part because they were not ready. Britain had wanted to give Africans experience and responsibility on a smaller scale and within the limits of familiar tribe and later to the establishment of a kind of a National Assembly to which members of district councils would send representatives. It was therefore too early to jump onto the federation.

The idea of a closer East African Union was the brain child of L. S. Amery, before and during his tenure as secretary of state for the colonies. To Amery and those who thought like him, “it seemed clear that the three poor countries each with a relatively small population would be in a better position to compete in a modern world … if they pooled their resources … and they could scarcely afford the luxury of standing alone.… the British government was anxious to ensure a uniform policy towards the African populations … [that] might be achieved by the appointment of a High Commissioner”.

Two commissions by Hon. W. Ormsby-Gore (1924) and Sir Hilton Young (1926) were sent to study the situation. Sir Edward Gregg who was appointed Governor of Kenya in 1925 was also instructed to prepare a scheme for closer East African union. His conclusions were published in a White Paper. In 1929, Amery sent his Permanent Under-Secretary Sir Samuel Wilson to undertake another survey. His report was discussed by a Joint Committee of both Houses of Parliament.

All these efforts produced very little in large part because the economic logic made little sense to local interests in the three territories. Although Kenya European and Asian interests may have supported the idea of closer union in exchange for political gain, Tanganyika and Uganda would have none of it. The Governor of Tanganyika reasoned that closer union would slow down the economic development in that country in favor of Kenya. Africans in Tanganyika and Uganda feared the domination of Kenyan white settlers. Buganda spokesman, Serwano Kulubya, stressed the constitutional difference between Kenya and Uganda. Thus, there was little support for economic integration and political federation. With departure of Amery from the colonial office, the economic troubles of the 1930s and passing of Lord Delamare in 1931 the idea of integration and federation was put on the back burner.

However, not all was lost. The discussions led to the creation of East African Common Services Organization. A common customs’ tariff was established in 1923 together with duty free trade. Meetings of Governors to discuss matters of common interest were started in 1930 and held regularly. In 1932 the postal services were amalgamated. Notwithstanding these developments, cooperation remained limited. There were no arrangements for coordination of transport and communications, defense or research, control of diseases and of higher education (C. R. V. Bell; The Road to Independence).

With the economic depression over, the idea of integration and federation regained strength. Colonial Secretary, Oliver Stanley, appointed in 1944 Sir Phillip Mitchell as Governor of Kenya and instructed him to devise an East African authority to handle common challenges. This effort resulted in the establishment of the East African High Commission in 1948 “to improve and build up the limited common services already existing”. There was still fear that federation was being slipped in through the back door. To allay this fear the organization was forced “to walk a straight apolitical line in the interests of its survival”.

By mid-1950s, the mood for self-determination created a kind of environment that seemed to favor closer union in east and central Africa. Conferences were held to discuss the challenges and to bring together nationalist movements. The pan-African Freedom Movement of East and Central Africa (PAFMECA) was created in 1958. However, the idea of establishing the East African federation before independence was rejected because it was seen as an imperialist plan to maintain control over the still colonial territories. Following subsequent consultations Julius Nyerere concluded and announced that “a dignified African personality required political unification in East Africa and that Tanganyika would be willing to delay her independence to achieve this end”. In 1960 Nyerere spoke about Freedom and Unity, stressing that a decision on federation “must be willed, designed and put into effect by the peoples of East Africa themselves”. PAFMECA endorsed the idea.

Nyerere then reasoned that federation should come at the stage of self-government to symbolize the will of the people. He however warned that “If it came after independence, the countries might refuse to give up the attributes of sovereignty”.

And that is exactly what happened. In June 1963 the three East African heads of state met in Nairobi and on June 5, issued a Declaration of Federation, committing the three governments to realize the federation in the same year (1963).

A six-man ministerial working party was formed to draft a constitution for the federation. Kenya was represented by Tom Mboya and Joseph Murumbi; Tanganyika by Oscar Kambona and A. H. Jamal and Uganda by Godfrey Binaisa and John Kakonge.

The first meeting was very optimistic. The public response within and without East Africa was also positive to federation. But Uganda’s traditional leaders were not sure about their role in the federation. In the course of drafting the constitution “It is reported that the Uganda government changed its views on previous agreements that had been reached by the representatives of the three governments on the proposed federation. This was followed by appointing Adoko Nekyon to replace Binaisa who had participated in drafting the constitution. Benaisa became an adviser.

Nekyon announced that there were some issues that were still outstanding. They included:

1. Matters affecting the civil service;

2. Siting of the federal capital;

3. Whether to have a single or bicameral legislature;

4. If there are to be two chambers, what powers would be allowed to each;

5. Disagreement concerning citizenship;

6. Division of powers and responsibilities between federal and state governments;

7. As a small state Uganda needed certain guarantees for her future within a larger unit.

On September 20, 1963, a Summit of East African heads of State was held in Nairobi in the absence of Obote. Uganda was represented by the minister of communications. With Obote absent the door to federation was closed.

While reporting to Parliament on the status of negotiations for federation, Nekyon said that Uganda could not compromise on the following areas:

1. The capital must be in Uganda to avoid its becoming forgotten by larger member states;

2. Uganda must be able to remain in its seat at the United Nations, and its sovereignty must also be retained;

3. Member-states of a federation must retain their independent powers to raise money abroad;

4. Agriculture (including marketing boards) must remain a responsibility for each member state;

5. Higher education, trade unions, lands and mineral resources must be controlled by individual states;

6. Inter-territorial movement of people must be controlled to protect Uganda against being swamped by Kenya’s urban unemployed;

7. Representation in the projected federal House of Representatives may be based on apportionment, but Uganda contends that each member state must have equal representation in the Senate (S. Diamond and F. G. Burke 1966).

With these issues still pending, the three countries established the East African community in 1966. These plus ideological, economic and personal problems destroyed the community which shut the door in 1977.

The community was eventually re-established initially to improve relations between Kenya and Uganda and then embark on economic integration activities to which as added a political federation.

United Democratic Ugandans (UDU) has been following negotiations on this important matter. It supports the idea of East African economic integration and political federation in principle. However, great care should be taken drawing on lessons of the first East African community, Tanganyika and Zanzibar federation and European Union. The issues raised in the 1960s during Obote I regime should also be considered as many of them are still relevant.

We should proceed with economic integration ensuring that there are net gains for Uganda in the short, medium and long-term and end up with political federation. There should be no fixed timetable for concluding integration and federation negotiations.

Negotiations should be open ended and sequenced in design. The role and power of states within the federation need to be spelt out clearly. Within East Africa there are wide differences in culture, language, ethnicity, ambitions, religions, colonial history, resource endowments, population densities and growth rates, level of education, skills and economic development. These differences are likely to confer disproportionate advantages to some countries and disproportionate disadvantages to others. This is in part what contributed to the collapse of the East African Community in 1977 and the differences still remain and new ones have been added. A level playing field needs to be created first so that each member develops capacity to make net gains.

Issues of migration and citizenship, jobs, land ownership in particular and manufacturing industries need to be handled with utmost care. Like building a house, the East African integration must begin with constructing a strong economic foundation via infrastructure and institutions ending up with the roof of political federation. Starting with a political federation is like constructing a building starting with a roof. Such a building will not stand, or stand for long. The idea should be abandoned.

While a common passport is essential, it does not constitute a sufficient condition for rushing into economic integration and political federation. Rushing to reach a conclusion should not be a priority. We should reach a goal that can last even if it takes a little longer.

Uganda’s immediate concern is to meet basic needs through the development of agriculture and agro-processing, infrastructure and institutions and appropriate technology. These can best be achieved at the national level.

Thus, economic integration should create conditions for this to happen. We should avoid applying wholesale theories that are not appropriate to the East African conditions including the level of development among member states. Therefore the basic tenets of regional cooperation should be re-examined before the new guidelines requested at the Burundi summit are finalized, bearing in mind that the major goal is not to undo the nation-state and replace it with a supranational authority.

East African community should preferably be used in the early stages as a forum for consultation and coordination of policies that help in formulating and implementing national policies through the joint use of facilities such as in research and consultancy. Areas of national security such as land ownership and citizenship are not negotiable and population and livestock mobility should be regulated. National boundaries are inviolable and the idea of a borderless East Africa should be dismissed out of hand.

Once all these issues have been satisfactorily resolved East Africa should be crowned with a political federation to create a larger framework within which member states can share responsibilities for larger freedom. Eric