SINCE when the US sneezes the rest of us like it or not catch a cold, it is impossible not to start with the American presidential elections, which are hotting up nicely.
This is wonderful in the pitching of camps for the battles to come. What adds zest to the mixture is the dissatisfaction by a multitude with the way Bush won the last elections and the part played by his brother Jeb, Governor of Florida, where vital votes for the Democrats disappeared down a hole. They would have clinched it for Democratic candidate Al Gore, who had run a spectacularly vacuous campaign, even putting ex boss Clinton under a bushel. Does Clinton weave the spell he did, after four years away? Therefore will he have a part to play? Will it be apt for the Democrats to remind voters of the shenanigans of the last elections, or would that seem like a gramophone needle stuck in the same groove? It is on crucial questions like this that new-boy Kerry will have to cut his teeth. Meantime I was struck by the fact that Vice President Cheney took the opportunity to confirm that he would be running again for Veep alongside Bush. Was it his place to do so or should it have been his boss? What does it tell you about these incumbents?
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From these matters of international import the path climbs straight up to what happened at Arusha at the signing of the East African Community Customs Union protocol by presidents Museveni of Uganda (current chairman), Mkapa of Tanzania and Kenyaâ€™s Kibaki. It is not too much to say that the fallout from this will still be reverberating in our region when John Kerry lies peacefully beside his ancestors in the fullness of time.
It has long been accepted that African states must combine into bigger units or be at the complete mercy of the stronger nations of the world. How the combinations are to be set out is naturally cause for hot debate. On the one hand is the idea of a single United States of Africa, with its own single army. Last week in Libya that didnâ€™t get the thumbs-up and your columnist was not in the least surprised, considering all the logistics and practicalities involved. The East African Customs Union is another thing entirely and will end up as an example of the way ahead. It has been a long time in the cooking, with experts in their fields thrashing out problems as they arose. Even then, taking for example the European Union, much will remain to be fought out in the future. What had to be agreed was that the areas of common agreement between the three member statements could be kicked off first, with more contentious issues to be addressed as we went along. This is common sense. And a period was also included during which matters already agreed could be revisited with the experience gained. But the fact that close to one hundred million citizens were now a trading union was a matter of great satisfaction. The market had in effect tripled. The size of that market, including politically, made it something not to be trifled with. And within it in the long run you would have done away with tariffs. The ultimate goal would always be for the equitable opening up of world markets but along the way a market of 100 million people was something to have in â€œyour armpitâ€. With friendly relationship across the continent with similar organisations, you would realistically and sustainably have brought about a huge area working together. It might seem more plodding than some other flashier routes, but it would be stronger for it. As icing on the cake, by week end Konyâ€™s total demise was coming closer. Branded a terrorist by Khartoum, he was now going to be hunted down in Sudan, where in addition he had killed and eaten tribesmen. No matter what Illing-spawn Lukyamuzi might say about talks, they were going to be nothing
Americaâ€™s Bush Getting His Match