EA federation to strengthen, not eliminate member states

While many Ugandans were celebrating the fall from power of UPC and Obote II government, Museveni was busy launching his hidden agenda by introducing concepts including metamorphosis, fundamental change, larger geographic entities and pan-Africanism. We did not bother to analyze what each concept meant in terms of Uganda’s interests. Recognizing that nobody raised questions about what he meant, Museveni went further. He embarked on regional wars and interference in the Great Lakes region. Development partners garlanded and christened him the dean of the new breed of African leaders while some African leaders expressed fear about what was going on in the Great Lakes region which contributed to “Africa’s First World War”. He was elevated to the high level of attending G8 Summits on a regular basis. Some people began wondering whose interests Museveni was serving.

Beginning in the mid-1990s, Museveni was confident. He stated that there was no problem he could not handle. Uganda would definitely become an industrial nation within 15 years. His goal was to eliminate, not reduce poverty etc. On April 4, 1997 Museveni announced to the whole world “My mission is to see that Eritrea, Ethiopia, Sudan, Uganda, Kenya, Tanzania, Rwanda, Burundi and Zaire [DRC] become federal states under one nation…. As Hitler did to bring together Germany, we should also do it here. Hitler was a smart guy, but I think he went a bit too far by wanting to conquer the whole world” (EIR Special report 1997). It is very important to note that Museveni recognized the existence of states with their inviolable borders under one federal nation. However, it is unclear why he left out Somalia. Is his ongoing involvement in Somalia to correct that omission, among other considerations?

Museveni has pursued his mission gradually, systematically, consistently and incrementally. He began with military training which he used to ‘conquer and colonize’ Uganda. Then he moved on to the East African economic integration stage. Realizing it was taking too long and there were no immediate benefits especially in trade, he switched to EA political federation to be achieved ahead of integration. It was understood by some that East African integration and political federation were meant to strengthen member states. That is why some of us supported integration and federation in principle on the understanding that integration would come before federation. But Museveni has reversed the order. He now wants federation first and on fast track. Writing on January 24, 2012 Yasiin Mugerwa and Isaac Imaka observed “Museveni is not only pushing hard for East African federation, but he has also succeeded in putting political federation ahead of economic integration, which initially was the main concern of the federation.

“Analysts have stressed that economic integration disproportionately favors Kenya, while a political federation would favor the Uganda president who is alleged to be harboring hopes to become the first federal president. President Museveni is East Africa’s longest-serving president”

This observation has raised two fundamental points. First, economic integration has disproportionately favored Kenya at the expense of others. That is why Kenya favors acceleration of economic integration and trade liberalization. It was this favor to Kenya that contributed to the demise of the first East African Community in 1977. Since trade among members of the East African states began, Uganda has consistently registered deficits. In 2008 Kenya registered inter-state trade surplus of $257.8 million. Uganda registered a trade deficit of $48.3 million. Until he changed his mind to political federation, Museveni had been arguing in favor of integration which would enhance Uganda’s opportunities for expanded markets that would stimulate rapid economic growth and exports and foreign currency accumulation. The possession of an East African passport was also dangled in front of Ugandans to persuade them to rally behind Museveni. When he probably realized people were not persuaded, he switched to the East African political federation to come ahead of economic integration. But people asked: how does a federation turn Uganda’s trade deficits into surpluses? Why should Uganda accept integration and/or federation when there are no benefits? These are questions that have not been answered by NRM government and its surrogates. The disadvantages to Uganda will get worse with free mobility of human and animal populations. Skilled jobs will disproportionately go to Kenya in addition to trade surplus. Kenya stands to gain all round and Uganda to lose all round. Some member states are interested in integration and federation because it will provide an avenue to ease population pressure by sending surplus to Uganda and Tanzania. East African integration and federation should be likened to globalization. It will have gainers and losers. Kenya will gain biggest and Uganda will lose biggest.

Second, should Uganda be pushed into a federation simply because we want Museveni to be the first federal president? Should 34 million Ugandans be sacrificed for the sake of one individual? If Museveni had performed exceptionally well in economic, social, political, environmental and human rights areas, one would have made a compelling case for him becoming the first federal president to extend his skills and national experience to the federal level. But Museveni has destroyed Uganda through corruption, sectarianism, cronyism and flawed elections using dictatorial and military muscles. He eliminated term limits in Uganda, which means by implication he won’t tolerate them at the federal level. He is trying to anoint one of his relatives as his successor in Uganda which by implication he would do at the federal level. He has not observed human rights and freedoms in Uganda which means by implication he won’t tolerate exercise of political, civil, economic, social and cultural rights at the federal level. Museveni has disproportionately favored members of his tribe which means by implication he will do the same at the federal level. Museveni has governed Uganda as a military commander which by implication he will continue to do with larger troops at his disposal. Is that what East Africans want?

To answer these questions with roots in the sovereignty of East African member states, Museveni and Kagame have come up with a solution – abolish national borders which in any case were demarcated by colonial officials. As independent states we can do what we want even if African Union or other supranational bodies may not go along. At a recent meeting in Rwanda attended by a high powered and carefully selected delegation (check the members), Kagame announced the abolition of colonial borders as negotiations towards integration and federation proceed. Since RPF captured power in Rwanda in 1994, the government has been advocating convening the second Berlin conference to revisit borders that were demarcated in Africa by colonial regimes.

But Kagame and Museveni have ignored one thing. Borders exist everywhere. Kagame and Museveni have ranches or homes with borders or boundaries fenced off or guarded not to allow any interference. Uganda state house has borders or boundaries fenced off and heavily guarded so that another Ugandan does not drive in and occupy state house. Similarly Uganda must keep its borders to keep interference out. In any case, should Uganda abolish its borders simply because they were demarcated by colonial officers? Is the alternative which we don’t even know better? Have you seen what the influx of refugees and illegal immigrants is doing to indigenous settlers in some parts of Uganda especially those bordering Rwanda, DRC and South Sudan? Because they don’t have answers detractors are resorting to accusations of racism, sectarianism, tribal hatred, vague statements or calling for a focus on neo-colonialism as the source of Uganda’s problems. Sometimes they indulge in jargons with intent to confuse readers and divert attention from the real issues. We are dealing with serious national issues here and we need to show leadership.

Ugandans need to ask further questions. Who authorized the Uganda delegation to negotiate with Rwanda government on the elimination of Uganda borders? Was it the Uganda cabinet which implements decisions of parliament as the executive branch of government? Was it parliament which represents the people and debates and approves proposals from the executive branch of government to implement? Who gives mandate to Uganda legislators at the East African Legislative Assembly? Is it parliament or the executive branch of government? And what mandate have they been given? These questions must be answered. We posed questions about potential dangers of structural adjustment program (SAP) and were ignored by NRM government. Now see what we got. Maternal mortality has shot through the roof, some children wards have turned into hospices and primary school kids are dropping out of school because we have no food to provide lunch since our priority is to diversify exports. Is this why we fought for independence (I was old enough and participated)? Is this why Obote and UPC were overthrown in 1985? Forgive me if I sound rude. Do we have patriotic leaders anymore? Frankly, sometimes I shudder when I read some comments on Ugandans at Heart Forum coming from people whose real names we don’t even know. It reminds me of a story where a woman claimed a baby that was not hers. When the contest heated up and realized she was going to lose to the real mother she suggested the baby be split between the two women. Who are these Ugandans calling for elimination of Uganda borders as a better formula for present and future generations? We need them to come forward so we can ask them some questions.

East African economic integration and political federation is a serious matter with national security implications. We simply cannot allow a few individuals whose profiles we probably don’t know to determine the future of Uganda. For UDU as explained in chapter four of the National Recovery Plan economic integration to be followed by political federation should strengthen and preserve member states and not eliminate national borders (national borders are inviolable), should bring net benefits and not deficits in any area of human endeavor (so far Uganda has reaped deficits in trade, skilled employment, human and animal mobility). Sectors like land ownership must not form part of the negotiation agenda (in the 1970s the European Community refused to negotiate Common Agricultural Policy [CAP] with African, Caribbean and Pacific States [ACP] because it was of strategic interest although that was number one area of interest to ACP). Uganda negotiators who feel uncomfortable with the mandate they have been given should resign instead of plunging the country into hell.

Fellow Ugandans, we need to move cautiously and incrementally beginning with economic integration on a sector basis and build institutions that strengthen national capacity to solve problems at the national level first. Look at the European Union. What lessons can we learn from it? Rushing federation simply to make Museveni the first federal president should be recast. We need representatives with experience in negotiations (and we have plenty but not active in NRM government) so we don’t lose again as we did with barter trade and privatization of public enterprises where we learned on the job and flopped badly. We have enough lessons. The future of thirty four million Ugandans is far more important than making Museveni the first federal president. If there are foreign advisers involved in negotiations we want them to go slow, perhaps take a break until we have put our house in order. We need competent people, patriotic people who put Uganda ahead of their interests, not loyal and trusted representatives of the president. We need to establish regional institutions that will make member states economically and socially stronger and preserve national borders for present and future generations.

For God and My Country