Getting together is always simpler than staying together. The simple reason being that getting together is often merely a decision that can be made on impulse. After deciding to get together one is faced with the challenges of bearing with the negatives of that each party has brought into the relationship.
The baby that is East African Community (EAC) is already facing challenges as a community at its infancy.
The original community never survived the egos of Field marshal Idi Amin and Mwalimu Julius Nyerere in 1977. Meanwhile Kenya was demanding more seats than Uganda and Tanzania in the decision making organs. Irreconcilable differences must have been what the legal fraternity must have described it then.
In November 1993, the then presidents of East Africa, Moi of Kenya, Mwinyi of Tanzania and Museveni of Uganda signed the Treaty for East African Co-operation in Arusha, Tanzania establishing a Tri-partite Commission for Co-operation.
The East African Community was finally revived on November 30, 1999, when the Treaty for its re-establishment was signed. It came into force on July 7, 2000, twenty-three years after the total collapse of the defunct erstwhile Community and its organs. Mid this year, Rwanda and Burundi were admitted into the community.
The original three East African countries agreed on a process of fast tracking the community towards a federation. To track the progress and perceptions of their people concerning the process, they all simultaneously instituted National Consultative commissions on October 13, 2006 to do a survey on what people in each country thought about the East African federation.
The results from Uganda and Kenya were overwhelmingly positive with over 75 per cent of the respondents responding affirmatively. On the contrary, Tanzanians had a very negative response when over 80 per cent of the respondents showed they were against the fast tracking process.
In brief, Ugandans and Kenyans want the process to move fast while their brothers in Tanzania are saying we should do it at a slower pace.
This reminds me of the last African Union summit when Libyan leader, Muammar Gadhaffi was telling fellow African rulers to quicken the process of forming a United States of Africa. Museveni and other leaders from the southern part of the continent were agitating for a slower process.
Political analysts argue that Museveni is eyeing the prospect of being the first East African president. The post is seen by some as a pension of sorts or a way out from the ever turbulent African politics. It is also noted that Museveni even recently embarked on a 300km road trip around the three original East African countries in what he called a bid to popularise the East African Community. Others argued that he was simply popularising himself as the prospective EA president.
Press reports now indicate that Museveni was not pleased by the decision taken at the last EAC summit held in Arusha where the leaders decided to respect what the views of the Tanzanians and therefore delay the process of fast tracking.
For a man who some Tanzanians loathe for having called the new EAC his baby sometime last year, matters are not helped by the fact that he even tied his retirement from Ugandan politics to the creation of the East African Political federation.
Tanzanians have given reasons like the fear of Kenyan economic dominance or land grabbing by the other neighbours. Tanzanians, who once accommodated Museveni as a rebel, are sceptical about him leading the Community because some view him as a war monger who strongly believes in violence as an option.
Uganda’s Sunday monitor (16/09/07) reported that President Museveni has sent a proposal to his Kenyan counterpart that the two countries consider forming a federation while they wait for Tanzania to get ready and the join.
The two countries hope that Rwanda and Burundi will join them to “a coalition of the willing” with headquarters proposed to be in Uganda’s eastern district of Tororo.
This is definitely going to be a threat to fraternity of the infant community putting it almost at the same temperatures of 1977 as it alienates Tanzania and affect long-term regional co-operation. In 1977, the plan was to alienate Uganda and this led to the end of EA relations.
Much as Uganda is bound to benefit politically and Kenya economically, Museveni’s much touted double-track process might prove to be the Achilles’ heel for the born again EAC.