Whose idea is East African integration and federation?

East African economic integration and political federation is again very much in the air. This time it is neither the British nor Tanzanians pushing but Ugandans with Museveni as champion. Museveni has made it his top priority. He is not only pushing very hard but he has reversed the order putting political federation ahead of economic integration. It is like building a house starting with the roof! Some commentators are beginning to wonder what has triggered this rush in Uganda’s state house. Before examining Museveni’s rush, let us briefly examine the background to East African economic integration and political federation.

The idea originated in London. Since the Second World War, one of long-term ambitions of London had been the achievement of closer integration of its East African territories in a federal arrangement or political union probably under the leadership of Kenya (Butler 2002). To this end the three colonial territories developed common economic structures, a common market and a common currency. Britain hoped that by creating East African High Commission and the East African Common Services Organization the three territories would unify or federate into one larger nation (Grenville 1994). In the early 1950s, the colonial office intimated that it might consider an East African federation (Diamond and Burke 1966).

While requesting a royal commission to study and recommend solutions to Kenya’s economic and political problems, Philip Mitchell, governor of Kenya from 1944 to 1952 advised that the commission should cover the three territories of East Africa that formed an economic region. This request was supported by the governors of Tanganyika and Uganda. The East African Royal Commission (1953-55) was appointed in October 1952.

In Uganda talk of East African federation under the leadership of white settler Kenya provoked negative reaction especially in Buganda. The Kabaka of Buganda protested and demanded to know that London was not involved in the federation scheme and withdrew support for constitutional reforms until he had received assurances. Governor Andrew Cohen who was in favor of East African region dismissed the king and sent him into exile (Butler2002).

In their report the commissioners of the East African Royal commission supported the idea that East Africa should be treated as a whole. However, “They carefully refrained from using the then very emotive word ‘federation’” (Low and Smith 1976). Upon receipt of the report the three governors who had supported the idea that East African territories should form one economic region, opposed the commission’s recommendation for closer regional co-operation. “It is reported that Sir Andrew, invited to attend a seminar at Makerere to discuss the report, placed it on the floor, put his foot on it, and announced, ‘gentlemen, that is what I think of the report’” (Low and Smith 1976).

Although Nyerere supported the idea of federation and was prepared to delay Tanganyika’s independence in order to federate when Kenya and Uganda attained independence, “But local ambitions, the very different conditions in each country and Kenya’s separate road to independence nullified these hopes. Nor did the later East African Economic Community [established in 1967] prove successful. African nationalism proved stronger than regional co-operation” (Grenville1994). Because of ideological difference and unequal economic benefits the East African Community collapsed in 1977.

On closer examination, it appears that the main impetus for the restoration of the East African Community was to diffuse political tensions – not the benefits of regional co-operation in terms of creating a larger market, economies of scale or increased foreign investment. The economic differences are still there with Kenya still the main beneficiary and political and historical differences even wider with the admission of Burundi and Rwanda. The political differences with Rwanda and Uganda becoming dictatorial and sectarian while Tanzania is moving closer to democracy make it even more difficult to push for regional co-operation until certain conditions have been met – some of them being real democracy, non-sectarianism and economic and social justice.

Museveni has to drop the idea of Tutsi Empire in eastern and central Africa and Bahororo dynastic rule in Uganda. It is no longer a rumor that Museveni’s son is being groomed to succeed his authoritarian father who is steadily impoverishing Ugandans to make succession easy as poor people are powerless and voiceless. And bribing or intimidating the rest.

Museveni’s desire for Eastern and Central African federation was formally proclaimed on April 4, 1997 “My mission is to see that Eritrea, Ethiopia, Sudan, Uganda, Kenya, Tanzania, Rwanda, Burundi and Zaire (now DRC) become federal states under one nation [and one emperor – Museveni]”(EIR Special report September 1997).

While commendable in principle, the East African economic integration and political federation idea is still fraught with serious barriers. East Africans need to move cautiously, methodically and sequentially as European Union and Southern African Development Community are doing. The central African federation of Northern and Southern Rhodesia and Nyasaland failed. It lacked support from Northern Rhodesia (Zambia) and Nyasaland (Malawi) because it favored white settler Southern Rhodesia (Zimbabwe).

As things stand right now, the East African economic integration is and will continue to disproportionately favor Kenya and the political federation will disproportionately favor Museveni who hopes to become the first federal president and use his military might to impose a Tutsi Empire which he almost did but Mugabe prevented it by entering the DRC war. Mugabe “saw the danger of Tutsi Empire in the middle of Africa” (Weatherby 2003).

East Africans should not regret that for lack of advance warning, Museveni introduced the Tutsi Empire through the back door. With this article you have been sufficiently warned. Further Ugandans should not pretend that they did not know that Museveni was scheming to make his son the next president of Uganda. With this article you have been sufficiently warned.

To sum up, the idea of east African economic cooperation and political federation started in London after the Second World War but failed to take root after independence as outlined above. The East African Community created in 1967 did not even last ten years.

East African economic cooperation and political federation has been resuscitated in Kampala and is being championed by Museveni for reasons outlined above. East Africans you now have all the information and advance warning. The decision is yours – and yours only – by action or inaction.

Ugandans you now have all the information about the possibility of Museveni making his son his successor. The decision is yours – and yours only – through action or inaction.

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