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Kenya on the verge of trailing a region it once ruled

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Added 15th November 2016 12:04 PM

Of African countries that were Pro-East or Pro-West, none has been able to transform their societies

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By Kirunda Kivejinja

I was very much intrigued by the article under the above headline published in the Regional Media on SUNDAY MAY 2016 by MAKAU MUTUA who was introduced as a distinguished Professor at SUNY Bufallo Law School and Chair of KHRC.

I thought therefore that my brother MAKAU and those who may hold that view as an interpretation of the current situation should not break their hearts of what appear to be changing or changed situations.

In the first place, brother MAKAU should be contented with the fact that there is no situation in life that is PERMANENT. As a Professor, he should know that there was once a British Empire. That Empire dictated its will over three quarters of the Globe that included the present mighty United States of America and Makau’s immediate and distant ancestors.

The proud creators (note my word CREATORS) of this Empire, prided themselves that THE SUN WILL NEVER SET ON THE British Empire! This was because at any time of the day, it would be daytime on one part of this Trans LATITUDINAL AND LONGTUDINAL Empire. 

When Global factors combined, this global empire was nimbled up with changing circumstances and the creators of this Empire had to sober up and adjusted themselves so as to continue living INSTEAD OF BASKING INTO NOSTALGIA.

TO BRING MY POINT HOME, Makau and those who think like him could benefit to understand the origin or better still, THE CONSTRUCT OF THE EAST AFRICAN NATIONS. Our Present Nations of Uganda, Kenya and Tanzania are NEITHER My NOR Makau’s Proud CREATION of our ancestors.

We are just inheritors of our Nations that were created outside our mindset by OTHERS, following the old adage that the weak and the ignorant will always be the prey of the strong and knowledgeable.

Just to freshen our minds, we should recall that in the wake of the European Scramble for Africa or what Thomas Pakenham calls The Whiteman’s conquest of the Dark Continent (1875 – 1926), the Eastern Africa fell under the sphere of Britain and Germany. Specifically, Kenya and Uganda fell under Britain spearheaded by the BRITISH EAST AFRICA COMPANY.

In the Courses taught at HARVAD BUSINESS SCHOOL AND MAKERERE UNIVERSITY BUSINESS SCHOOL, COMPANIES are formed to make profits for their shareholders though at times, they also make losses.

Kenya was identified as suitable for British (WHITE) Settlement. Consequently, ALL THE MOST LUXURIOUS PARTS OF KENYA were forcefully taken over by White Settlers.

On the other hand, Uganda with a strong Centralized Indigenous Administration was identified to be exploited under a peasant economy where homesteads were forced to grow cotton and coffee to benefit the shareholders in Britain and British India and serve White Settlers using the Transformed Kings and Chiefs after the death of the strong King Mutesa and the defeat of Kings Mwanga and Kabalega who were ultimately exiled to Seychelles.

As soon as the British and their Collaborators had the upper hand in 1900, by 1903 cottonseeds were introduced in Uganda by a Briton called Borrup to be distributed to the peasants with the enforcement of the transformed chiefs to grow cotton.

Earlier on in 1897, Mombasa Port was constructed SPECIFICALLY as a Port to handle Uganda’s cotton. This was followed by the Construction of “The Uganda RAILWAY”

The Port and the Railway were constructed by a LOAN put together by a Cartel of British Banks and reluctantly by the British Government using Indian Labour. AT THIS POINT, ALL THE FINANCIERS WERE NOT CONVINCED THAT THE VENTURE WOULD BE AVIABLE PROJECT EXCEPT THE SHREWD SHAREHOLDERS.

Prof Makau may well be pleased to note that in the construction of the “Uganda Railway”, it had to take the longer route TO SERVE THE COLONIAL SETTLEMENT IN KENYA with a Branch to Nanyuki.

After the Construction of the Mombasa Port and the Uganda Railway, the cotton production in Uganda had reached its peak. By 1939, the PROCEEDS from Uganda Cotton was able to pay-off the loan to the Banks and British Government with attendant interest WAY AHEAD OF SCHEDULE!

By 1940, Cotton Exports from Uganda left a balance of a hefty 40 Million Pounds. This cumulative balance was left in British Banks as Consolidated Fund to finance manufacturing industries to serve the settler economy in Kenya and the Capitive Market in Uganda.

You will note in this colonial arrangement, the Port of Mombasa was on the Coast of Kenya though under the Sovereignty of Zanzibar. Nairobi was established as the Headquarters of the Uganda Railways. When the East African Airways was established, its Headquarters was in Nairobi.

The manufacturing industries were in the hands of the Settlers and their agents located in Kenya. This established Nairobi and Kenya as the economic centre, indeed king of the Region it once ruled (as decried by Prof Makau).

In Uganda, the transformed king who was instituted as a baby lived in a palace within a Structure that towered high over his subjects who dwelt in grass-thatched houses. The colonial chiefs lived in astounding 16 Bed roomed mansions bribed every 3 years with the latest FORD CARS.

When Germany lost the war in World War I (1914 / 18), Germany also lost its possession of Tanganyika that was added to the victorious Britain in 1924 as a trustee. The ancestors of Prof Makau and of mine were neither the beneficiaries of that situation except as colonial slave labourers UNTIL INDEPENDENCE. Nairobi was planned for 80,000 Settlers. Muthaiga, Lavingstone and the Sky Scrapers built by the Settlers were not for the likes of Makau and me.

It might have worked in a polarized world to be Pro-West or Pro-East but now as Africans including those who decided to cast their fate with East or West, we have to be PRO-OURSELVES by Developing:

  • OUR STRENGTH FROM OUR DIFFERENT IDENTITIES;
  • TO ENSURE OUR SURVIVAL AND
  • TO AVOID POSSIBLE CALAMITIES THAT HAVE BEEN THE LITANY OF OUR EARLIER ANCESTORS.

OUR COMMON AND ASSURED PROSPERITY CAN ONLY BE BY CREATING A BIGGER MARKET WHERE;

  • WE CAN BUY AND SELL WHAT WE PRODUCE AMONG OURSELVES AND
  • BE ABLE TO BARGAIN AS A BIG MARKET WITH BIGGER MARKETS OF INDIA, CHINA, THE EUROPEAN UNION AND THE AMERICAS WITH ONE BIG VOICE.

Unfortunately, African countries that were Pro-East or Pro-West, NONE HAS BEEN ABLE TO TRANSFORM THEIR SOCIETIES near to the Societies where Prof Makau is a renowned ACADEMIC! 

It is the law of nature that circumstances can make you change a very intimate friend, But you cannot change a Brother or a Neighbour. The common market we have created with addition of South Sudan has a land mass equal to that of India and with a population of 170 Million people.

Demographic figures show that the African population will soon be 1.2 Billion creating a Market of US$8 Trillion at the disposal of Africans of Prof Makau's generation and that of their children if they are awake and stop thinking about unsustainable advantages accrued to them by colonial history.

Now when you go to Rwanda, you find Kenyan Entrepreneurs. In Uganda, young graduates of UTALI serve 80% of Ugandan hotels, while industries like BIDCO are in full blast in Uganda etc etc. In the last Summit in South Africa that housed India, China, Brazil, Russia and Africa representing the emerging GLOBAL ECONOMIC GIANTS, Statistics were released showing that in that year alone, China exported goods to Africa worth US $ 200 Billion!

This means that Africa has the Market and the means to pay for its needs, up to USD 200 Billion from one source. What about the rest of the world! DO WE WANT TO BE A SUPERMARKET FOR THE REST of the world’s manufactured goods till when?

The way out is not to be stuck in NOSTALGIA but to wake up to the present possibilities and GRAB THEM FOR OUR COLLECTIVE BENEFITS.

African intellectuals like MAKAU need to bury their heads into scholarships to delve into deep analysis of the history and the problems preventing our people from emerging from the plight of backwardness. The contradiction of Muthainga Lavingstone and the settlement of MATHARE let alone those in our countryside, must be enough stimulus to joge the brains of the African intellectuals to find out why this situation? What are the causes? And propose solutions for our leaders and people to chart clear policies and actions that will ensure a better future for this generation and that of their children.

India, China, Singapore, Malaysia, South Korea and Asian Tigers have made it. Why can’t a single African Country OR A NATURAL GROUPING OF EAST AFRICAN COMMUNITY DO THE SAME? WHAT WE ARE TRYING TO CREATE IS A COMMON MARKET AND INDUSTRIES TO PRODUCE GOODS FOR OUR COMMON MARKET NOT FOR KENYAN, TANZANIAN, BURUNDIAN, RWANDESE, UGANDAN AND SOUTH SUDANESE MARKETS BUT OUR BIG MARKET WHERE TO SELL WHAT WE PRODUCE IN OUR COMMUNITY.

Writer is the Second Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of East African Community Affairs in the Ugandan Cabinet

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