Tuesday, September 25, 2007

EAC: Can We Handle The Heat?

I believe in cooperation. I strongly believe that Tanzania cannot just operate and exist in isolation. For one, history has taught us that political environment in neighboring countries have a potential of have an impact on Tanzania. Just ask folks in Kigoma and Karega. They have a first hand experience with a refugee influx.

You can never take those experiences lightly. As such any opportunity you have (such as the East African Community) to have a positive influence on your neighbors should be honored and cherished. Nevertheless, I struggle with the idea of just joining hands for political reasons, without considering some practical and significant issues.

A buddy of mine sent me the following message. This was from his father who is currently undergoing some medical treatment in Nairobi. Read on…

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If you want to know how dirty politics could be, come to Kenya. These guys fight using weapons such as arrows. It is amazing that even a minister from one political party goes out to campaign and he gets beaten up. These guys are dangerous.

But they are coming. They know exactly why they want to join the East African Community. Since I got here, at least on a daily basis you will hear about a carjacking or bank robbery. Even worse, these guys are using deadly weapons such as AK47 and others ammunitions. I think they get these weapons from Somalia.

I have come to appreciate living in a peaceful country. The bandits can strike at anytime, anywhere. If I was not aware of this reality, then the majority of people (Tanzanians) have no clue. I was naïve enough to assume that as long as I was living in a peaceful country, other places had the same environment.

I am afraid Tanzanians’ eyes will open while it is too late. For instance, just yesterday, bandits attached Kenya’s flying police and forced the police force to retreat. The bandits were on their way to rob the Bank of India...”

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I am not undermining the importance of the East African Community, but certainly there are plenty of factors that Tanzanians need to ponder before joining hands with the rest of the East African countries. Just go over the above message from a shocked mzee and tell me if you would even think of being a Nairobi’s residence.

One of the mostly cited reasons for calling for East Africa’s cooperation is the commonness of the people. A very simple example is the existence of the same tribes (such as Luo) across the Kenyan and Tanzanian borders. While that could be true, I don’t think that is strong enough of a reason. Language alone is never enough a reason to unite people. Luo in Kenya are conditioned differently from Luo in Tanzania. The Kenyan environment has positioned Luo in that country to have a differing perspective on tribal relationship from that of Luo in Tanzania.

My point is that Burundi, Kenya, Rwanda, Tanzania and Uganda have very unique experiences – both political and cultural – that we can’t ignore simply because Swahili is spoken among these countries.

Despite the obvious tribalism culture that is prevalent in Kenya, I am not convinced that these countries share the same political culture either. Honestly, I am not sure if I want Museveni to be my president. Despite the fact that Tanzanian past presidents have had their black spots, I praise them for respecting the people enough not to demand a change in the constitution so that they could become life presidents. Not only that, I think the guy is overly ambitious, not for the people of East Africa, but for his own personal gains and legacy.

Seriously, are Tanzanians ready to fund about $10,000 that Kenyan’s MPs give themselves on a monthly basis once we become on country? I don’t think so.

In addition, I am not convinced that we are all on the same economic path. Yes, Kenya has led the way in East Africa for a long time. Nonetheless, the country’s recent performance indicates that the country is heading in the wrong direction. It would be very myopic to believe that economic inequality will not bring with it some problems. Wonder why young people are flocking to Dar-es-Salaam? It is because of the imbalance in the distribution of national wealth (farmers produce exports in rural areas, while tarmac roads and skyscrapers are being constructed in Dar-es-Salaam).

I have not studied on how the East African government, once formed, will be run. Nonetheless, the reality is that Tanzanians must be ready for a huge cultural shock. Man, if you have not been to Kenya, please make a “study tour”. We can handle the Ugandans (we did about 20 years ago, plus they are mild mannered), but Kenyans are of a class of their own (I am not saying this to promote separation, I am just letting Tanzanians know the cultural differences).

The text message above from a shocked mzee definitely focused on security issues in Nairobi. Nevertheless, we cannot ignore the fact that the rise of banditry is a result of some of other social factors. The question is this: are Tanzanians ready to handle the heat once the EAC is finally here? Are ready to be part of the social problems in Kenya, Uganda, Burundi and Rwanda? Do we have clear idea of what we are getting ourselves into or we have just let emotionalism blur our vision?

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Photo Credit: BBC

2 comments:

wayne said...

in addition to the Kenya issue you addressed, how about an EAC which inherits Uganda's continuing armed conflicts (read: people killing each other)- both within (remnants still lingering strongly from the conflicts in the north and west) and outside - continued participation in the ongoing conflict in eastern DRC - add Rwanda and Burundi to that DRC conflict as well. I wonder how many Tanzanians want to inherit the conflict AND the military costs (lives and money) that comes with it. I am surprised that JK even still talks about it. If I were a Tanzanian with any voice at all, I would scream: "run away, run away" from the possibility of participation in an EAC that led to ANY compromise of Tanzanian autonomy.

Amani M said...

EU UPTO NOW THEY STILL ARE TALKING AND TRYING TO STRENGTHEN EU ORGANS. WE ARE TALKING OF FEDERATION - THAT IS MOVING TOO FAST. WE HAVE TO LET THE GENERATION OF POWERMONGERS AND LEADERS WITH BLOOD ON THEIR HANDS PASS BEFORE TALKING ABOUT UNITY.

HOW CAN SOMEONE WITH CLEAR MIND TRUST LEADERS LIKE MUSEVENI, KAGAME, BUYOYA? EVEN TALKING TO THEM IS A SHAME.
THEY RECRUITED BOYS AND GIRLS IN THEIR FIGHTING GROUPS;
THEY INVADED CONGO AND LOOTED THE COUNTRY;
MUSEVENI WHEN HE WAS A MINISTER FOR DEFENSE PREPARED HIS WAY TO THE BUSH. NOW IF HE BECOME PREZ OF EAC, WHAT WILL BE HIS NEXT MOVE?

PLEASE LETS WAIT TILL THEY GO AND CIVILIZATION RETURNS IN THEIR COUNTRIES.
LETS NOT EVEN THINK OF FEDERATION FOR NOW.