EDITORâ€”In 1993, presidents Museveni, Moi and Mkapa agreed to revive the East African Cooperation (EAC) that had collapsed in 1977. This was formalised in a ceremony held in Arusha, in 2001. In December 2006, Rwanda and Burudi formally joined to EAC to make five countries. The conditions for econom
The conditions for economic integration and prosperity cannot be more opportune!
The EAC covers an area of over 1.8 million square kilometres with a population of almost 100 million people. It has a vast economic and trade potential; as well as a common history, language (Kiswahili), culture and infrastructure. Despite these prospects, we do not seem to have adequate safeguards against a possible collapse such as the one we witnessed in 1977. There are ingredients that could undermine the spirit of the EAC and possibly kill it off.
However, compared with the factors that destroyed it in 1997, these ingredients are trivial. In 1977, East Africa had become ideologically split, with Kenya advocating capitalist interventions, while Tanzania pursued socialism. Mistrust among the East African leaders mounted after president Amin grabbed power and continuously castigated Tanzania for harbouring and supporting Ugandan rebels. Today, the elements that threaten the EAC are not so grave.
Uganda has ample land conflicts. Some tribal and ethnic groupings have prevented other groupings from lawfully acquiring land and settling in â€œtheirâ€ areas. The most vivid example is the Bakiga whom Banyoro have fought for decades. The Baganda have dropped hints on several occasions that Buganda is for Baganda. How will Ugandans allow Kenyans, Tanzanians, Rwandese, Barundi to freely move in, acquire land and settle, if they cannot allow their fellow citizens?
Nepotism in employment and business is a thorny issue in many institutions. The UPDF has often come under fire for promoting southerners. Religious institutions are not clean either. If we donâ€™t have discipline to share employment opportunities based on merit, what will happen after we federate?
Differences in access to economic opportunities and social services have polarised Uganda into southern; perceived as the governmentâ€™s â€œfavouriteâ€ and northern; the â€œforgotten and neglectedâ€.
Would a polarised Uganda meaningfully federate? While president Museveni pursued regional integration, he simultaneously â€œdisintegratedâ€ his own country.
Uganda had less than 30 districts in 1993. As the EAC initiative gained momentum, so was the disintegration of Uganda. To date, Uganda has over 80 districts. President Museveniâ€™s federation argument has been numbers: a block with 100 million people is economically stronger than a single country with 28 million people.
If we pursue the same argument, we would conclude that dismantled districts like Mbarara, Mpigi and others would never be the same. The elements that blew up the EAC in 1977 were quite visible yet member governments stood by watching as the union collapsed. Will the government heed issues that could easily pass for trivialities?
Will the EAC succumb to trivialities?