Shaky relationships in the EAC
As I was writing this piece, my brothers in the United Republic of Tanzania were celebrating their National Day (26 April). It is the day, 48 years ago when the mainland Republic of Tanganyika and the Republic of Zanzibar Island joined in a political union to form one nation.
Under the union deal, Zanzibar became part of Tanzania but remained semi-autonomous with its own president and parliament. Before independence, Tanzania’s Baaba wa Taifa Julius Nyerere said, referring to Zanzibar, “I fear it will be a big headache for us.”
In love terms, Tanganyika and Zanzibar have just celebrated their wedding anniversary (now 48yrs). However, the big question (Swala nyeti) is whether the relationship is still as healthy as it was when the two lovebirds made their vows in 1964.
That does not seem to be the case, considering that the last five decades have seen the legitimacy of the union continuously being questioned. Each election year seems to escalate the crisis while the current process to rewrite the constitution has offered the debate a new platform.
This tough love situation is not limited to Tanzania. There is the bitter truth in Kenya; of a Central Kenya business and political oligarchy that was set in motion by Mzee Jomo Kenyatta. It is the domination of this group that seems to shape the politics of this Kenya and may as well explain why Raila Odinga had to put up his once formidable ‘Pentagon’ team so as to have a shot at the top office.
Even before the dust about the intentions of the Gikuyu, Embu, Meru Association (GEMA) and Kalenjin, Maasai, Turkana, Samburu Association (KAMATUSA) could settle, the Mombasa Republican Council (MRC) joined the fragmentation games. MRC is calling for cessation from wider Kenya an argument that Pres. Kibaki and Prime Minister Raila Odinga have dismissed.
The same problems have existed in Uganda long before independence was ever achieved. The British exploited the organisation of Buganda Kingdom and used it as their pivotal point in controlling the rest of Uganda. It was therefore no surprise at independence when Buganda was favoured and allowed to exist as a semi-autonomous entity in the wider federal arrangement.
This favoured relationship has continuously made it difficult for Buganda and Uganda to exist harmoniously. Every now and then, disgruntled Baganda will hint at cessation. At one time Sir Edward Muteesa, Buganda’s Kabaka or king is said to have ordered the executive (Pres. Milton Obote) to remove his government from Buganda territory.
The over twenty years of war in Northern Uganda, resulted in many people from that area toying with the thought that the war was a deliberate attempt to punish them for the ills of the past governments. To this end, political leaders especially from Acholi once declared intentions to break off from Uganda and join with South Sudan to form what they called the Nile state.
The story of ethnic tension in Rwanda and Burundi from the colonial days to the brutal outcomes of the Genocide against the Tutsi and the civil wars in Burundi is one we all know. The reconciliation and peace efforts in both countries have gone a long way in rebuilding the two countries.
The tensions between different communities in Uganda, Kenya and Tanzanian are often ignored when discourse on the East African Community is going on. Instead more fingers are usually pointed towards Tanzania accusing it of not being too keen about the integration process. I find this quite unfair to be honest.
The same tough love relationship situation that Tanzania faces at home is not that different from what is happening in Kenya or Uganda and all this certainly affects the feasibility of the wider EAC project.
How can we expect to integrate five different countries when we still have issues between Tanganyika and Zanzibar, Mount Kenya and the rest of Kenya and also Buganda with the rest of Uganda for instance?
These are some of the tough questions that we need to address instead of just sweeping them under the floor and dancing to the Hakuna matata tunes. We need to fight against genocide ideologies, tribalism and cessation talks if we are to ever witness the East African integration.
We need to love each other in our smaller countries before we can think of loving those outside our borders. If Zanzibaris think those in Bongo (Dar) are thieves why should we be surprised with Tanzanians thinking the same of Kenyans and Rwandans? But hey, Aluta continua!
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