• Wed Jun 10 2015
  • EA leaders should revive the common services

I would like to express my sincere thanks to J.B. Kakooza, a Kampala Lawyer and a native of Buddu County in Masaka.
Vision Reporter
Journalist @ New vision
I would like to express my sincere thanks to J.B. Kakooza, a Kampala Lawyer and a native of Buddu County in Masaka.

By Kavuma Kaggwa

I would like to express my sincere thanks to J.B. Kakooza, a Kampala Lawyer and a native of Buddu County in Masaka, who recently wrote that the East African Federation (Shirikisho La Afrika Mashariki) in the context of a Political Union of Burundi, Kenya, Rwanda, Tanzania and Uganda, remains a dream still far off (Sunday Vision, May 31, 2015).

Burundi and Rwanda were admitted into the East African Community after President Museveni worked hard to convice Kenya and Tanzania that they should be allowed in the partnership so as to develop and enjoy common trade and other services. Kenya and Uganda are the gateway to Rwanda and Burundi.

It is clear that a Political Federation of East African Countries is not possible because of the ethnic and political differences in the Countries of East Africa.

In East Africa, we have tribes which say that they came to rule and that their Dynasty will rule for fifty to sixty years from now. Again in East Africa, we have Countries which have managed to stick to the Principles of Democracy and they strictly observe what is stipulated in their Constitutions. Again we have Countries where Members of Parliament wake up one morning and amend the Constitution and abolish Presidential term limits.

When a President rules a Country beyond the constitutionally stipulated time of a maximum of 10 years, then he becomes more or less a king, therefore, he should be called a presiking.

I totally agree with Mr. Kakooza that looking at whole situation from an angle of democracy, you see that democracy in Burundi means something completely different from what it means in Tanzania and Kenya. So different that the situation in each member State makes it impossible for the idea of a Federation to make sense.

President Pierre Nkurunziza’s greed for power caused outbreak of violence and it will be difficult to put it out whether he stays or goes. The former Secretary General of the United Nations, Kofi Annan has advised President Nkurunziza not to contest again.

General elections have been postponed on the recommendation of other East African Leaders but the fact remains that the bigger majority of people do not want him to have a third term which contravenes the Constitution.

In Rwanda, protests may start to brew up, provoked not by those that want President Kagame to leave at the end of his Constitutional term, but by those who want the Constitution amended to allow him to stay in power beyond the two term limits.

In Uganda, there is a formidable demand for Constitutional Reforms which should include the restoration of the presidential two term limits, which were abolished by Parliament in 2005. The Uganda Opposition wants the term limits restored so that they plan for their presidential candidate to win in 2021, that is if they don’t succeed in 2016.

In Kenya, it is not likely that President Uhuru Kenyatta and his party would dare attempt to change the Constitution, after seeing what happened in their country in 2007/2008. They have adopted a political system which we can call Federalism which protects each tribe in its own area without any interference from another tribe in whatever way.

What will happen when a political federation is formed?

When a political federation is formed, there will be one President of East Africa with overall political powers and one Parliament of East Africa. He will be elected by the people of East Africa and the system of electing him will be clearly stipulated in the East African Constitution. This constitution will have to be approved first in a referendum by the people of East Africa.

It is not known where the Seat of Government will be. Currently, the Headquarter of the East African Community is located in Arusha, Tanzania.

A Political Federation of East Africa is a thorny issue, especially if you get to know the thinking of the ordinary people in Uganda, Kenya and Tanzania. I remember some eight or ten years ago, there were committees which were set up to get views of the people in each of the three Countries Uganda, Kenya and Tanzania.

In Uganda, the Committee did not go into the villages to meet the people. It interviewed some politicians in one of the Kampala Hotels. There was a general view that – “We shall never surrender our sovereignty to any African Country and we cannot accept to be slaves of any African Country.”

In Uganda, there is the question of Buganda. The Baganda rejected the Federation right from the time of Kabaka Sir Daudi Chwa II in 1921. Again they rejected the Federation in 1948 and because of that the British formed the East Africa High Commission and it was based in Kenya, to offer the common services in the three Countries. Again the Baganda rejected the Federation in 1953 and Kabaka Edward Mutesa was exiled by the Governor Sir Andrew Cohen from 1953 to 1955.

The Baganda believed that the Federation will abolish the Buganda Kingdom and the Luganda language and impose Kiswahili on them. They believed that the anti – Baganda elements in East Africa will use the Federation to abolish the Buganda Kingdom. The recent sacking of Ms. Margaret Ziwa from the post of the Speaker of the East African Legislative Assembly, on the basis of tribalism, made the Baganda to fear the Federation more.

They believe that the moment they enter the federation that will be the end of their Kingdom and other Kingdoms and Cultural Institutions in Uganda. They say the anti – Buganda elements will apply “quiet diplomacy” (which means many things) and move a motion in the Parliamet of East Africa, saying that in order to strengthen the working of the Federation and in view of the fact that there are no Kingdoms in the other four partner States, therefore the Kingdoms in Uganda should be abolished.

However, will be the President of Uganda at that time will turn around and tell the Baganda that “do not blame me, it is the East African Parliament which has abolished your Kingdom and I have no powers over that Parliament”. I have heard other Ugandans who say “Uganda does not lose anything by not being in the Federation and does not gain anything by being in the Federation.

In Kenya, the current generation is the sons and daughters of the Mau Mau war Heroes. They say they must be the leaders of Kenya one by one and right now Uhuru Kenyatta is the President. He is the son of Jomo Kenyatta, the Foundng Father who fought for Kenya’s Independence with other Kikuyus and Jaramogi Oginga Odinga the Father of Raila Odinga. Considering Kenya’s economic strength now, I doubt whether they will accept to go into the East African Federation.

I was in Kenya  in 1977 and I remember it was Kenya that contributed to the collapse of the East African Community which the three Countries had established in 1967. Kenya was wrongly advised and influenced by some external powers to break away from the East African Community where one of the Leaders was General Idi Amin of Uganda.

When the Community collapsed in February 1977, Charles Nyonjo who was the Attorney General of Kenya told Kenya’s Parliament that he was so happy and that he took six tots of wine to celebrate the collapse of the East African Community. Mwai Kibaki, former President of Kenya, and a first class economist from Makerere, immediately stood up and told him that – “That was not something to celebrate about” It took seventeen years for the other East African Leaders, to revive the East African Community which, unfortunately, is not as strong as the first one.

In Tanzania, the People are not all that keen on the Federation. That is both the mainland and Island of Zanzibar. That was demonstrated during the time the Fast Tracking Committee was going round the Country to receive people’s views about the Federation. There is a general fear that when the Federation is in existence, Ugandans and Kenyans who are highly qualified will move into Tanzania and occupy all the most important jobs in the Country.

There are also people who speak in Kiswahili that – “Hatutaki Waganda kuyingia Tanzania kugitawara” which translates that – “we do not want Ugandans to come to Tanzania to rule us”.

With that kind of political, economic and social situations within the Countries that make up East Africa, the Federation will take a long time to be formed.

What the leaders should do now

In 1948, the British who were ruling the three Countries of East Africa, Uganda, Kenya and Tanganyika (now Tanzania), set up an Economic Union which they called East Africa High Commission to provide common services to the people of East Africa. The Headquarter was in Kenya. The common services were: the airline, East African Airways, The East African Railways and Harbours, the East African Posts and Telecommunications, the East African Agricultural Research Organisation, The East African Veterinary Research Organisation. There was a General Fund to run these organisations. The Director General of all these organisations was Sir Bruce Hart appointed by the three territorial Governors.

In 1967, after the Independence of the three Countries, the East African Community was set up by the three Countries under a Common Treaty which was approved by the three Countries. The East African Community took control of all the services of the East African Common Services Organisation which had earlier on succeeded the East African High Commission. They added on the East African Flying School in Sororti Uganda to train African pilots.

Kenya had the headquarters of the East African Airways Corporation and the East African Railways Corporation. Uganda had East African Posts and Telecommunications, and Tanzania had East African Harbours and East African Headquarters in Arusha and the General Fund running the services and the Secretary General was based in Arusha. The old East African Community offered employment to thousands of young educated people of East Africa, who included myself.

Finally the big challenge now facing the Leaders of East Africa, is to revive and strengthen the common services which will benefit thousands of East Africans. This will be of great benefit to the people instead of talking of forming a Political Federation, which is impossible under the current circumstances. You form the Federation today, and before the ink on the Federation Agreement dries, the Federation will be in shambles.

According to the modern telecommunication system, it is not possible now to revive the old East African Posts and Telecommunication.

The former airline, East African Airways, can be revived by the three Countries, Kenya, Uganda and Tanzania. When it is revived, it should be developed into a big International airline capable of competing with other airlines. With the combined financial resources from the three Countries, the airline will be able to purchase modern equipment to enable it serve very many international destinations in the five Continents of the World.

The Tourism we have today in East Africa was developed by the former East African Airways. When the airline is revived, the inflow of foreign tourists will increase tremendously and East Africa will definitely become a big tourist destination in the World.

Easy tourist circuits will be developed in the three Countries and a tourist will definitely be attracted to visit not only one Country but all the three, before returning home.

The natural tourist attractions in the three Countries or for that matter five Countries, will be publicised worldwide in such a way that a tourist will be forced to come to East Africa first before going anywhere in the world.

The other service which the East African Leaders can develop is the Railways system. I remember during the Colonial time the East African Railway system was really superb, but today you look at it and weep especially here in Uganda.

All the cargo from Mombasa to Kampala was transported by train. Petroleum products were being brought in by train. Almost every after two hours there was a train engine passing either pulling cargo wagons or carrying passengers. Ugandans and Kenyans and foreign tourists used to travel in luxurious train coaches from Kampala to Mombasa and back.

I know that road transport has greatly improved but still the Railways system can be revived and improved to bring in cargo from Mombasa to Kampala to Western Uganda, and to Northern Uganda connecting with South Sudan.

The train system will offer cheaper rates for bringing goods from Mombasa to Kampala and other areas. Should the Railway line be extended to Rwanda and Eastern Congo, then that will be of great benefit to those two Countries.

The writer is an elder from Kyaggwe in Mukono District