Thursday, 6 September 2007

The East African Political Federation Postponed

Billion-shilling gunshot wedding called off
After spending large sums to fast-track the East African Political Federation by 2013, the five heads of state in the East African Community — Kenya, Uganda, Rwanda, Burundi and Tanzania — finally bowed to the will of their people: forget about it, at least for now.

ACCORDING TO EAC secretary-general, Juma Mwapachu, 70 per cent of the Kenyans polled, 76 per cent of Ugandans, and a whopping 97 per cent of Tanzanians are in favour of a political federation.

But, 76 per cent of Tanzanians and 70 per cent of Ugandans do not want a fast-tracked federation — certainly not by 2013!

IN OTHER words, about 47.8 million people (1.37 times Kenya’s population) out of the combined Uganda and Tanzania population of 65.46 million people (2005 figures) oppose fast tracking the federation.

Rwandans (7.6 million) and Burundians (7.54 million) were not polled on the fast-tracking. But, added to the Kenyans, all three come to 49.84 million, just two million more than the nay-sayers.

The five countries have a combined GDP of $137 billion in terms of purchasing power parity (PPP) — or $41 billion in real terms.

BUT, THEIR annual per capita GDP (PPP) differs wildly, with Uganda’s (2005 estimates) being highest at $1,700. Others are Kenya —$1,445; Rwanda — $1,300; Burundi — $739 (2003 figures) and Tanzania — $723.

How these socio-economic jigsaw pieces are going to fit together in the puzzle is anybody’s guess!

THE DECISION on gradual rather than a fast-tracked federation – the shotgun wedding as proposed by the Amos Wako Commission — was reached by the top brass in the five EAC states at their sixth summit in Arusha on August 20. Perhaps not unexpectedly, the result was received with mixed reactions from different quarters.

Kenya may not have been particularly happy with the outcome that has trashed the report of a Commission chaired by the country’s attorney-general.

Nor can Uganda’s President Yoweri Museveni, whom many perceive as the most likely to have become the Federation’s first president had the event occured in 2013.

THIS IS surprising, though, taking into account the man’s diametrically opposed positions on the EA Federation (vocally supportive) vis-à-vis the proposal by Libya’s Muammar Gaddafi for fast-tracking an Africa Union government.

My beef here is: Was all that cost justified — or necessary in the first place? We already had the answer that the various Commissions arrived at from the horse’s mouth as it were.

IN A widely publicised Report of the Committee on Fast-Tracking East African Federation February 2007, the Department of Political Federation at the EAC Secretariat in Arusha succinctly put what it must have cost billions of shilling to “discover” through polling Commissions.

“The art of transforming the EAC into a Political Federation is a delicate process,” the Secretariat says in something of an understatement. “A Political Federation first might give people hope for a better future — but (will) not guarantee future tangible benefits.

“Focusing on economic integration first will enable the people to see tangible benefits, and build support for deeper integration — including support for a Political Federation.”

Karl Lyimo is a freelance journalist based in Dar. E-mail:

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