Tag Archives: Kenya

Tanzania’s isolation in the East African Community

8 Oct


In June this year, the presidents of Kenya, Uganda and Rwanda met in Kampala and then announced a plan with definite timelines to speed up integration in the East African Community. They have since met again in Mombasa and will be in Kigali soon.

There were two reactions to this development.

The first was that the three were creating a two-lane integration process – one for those who wanted to sprint and another for dawdlers.

The second was a signal that if the other two could not make up their mind about how they wanted the East African Community to move forward, they risked being left behind.

In both cases, depending on where one stood on the issue, the action of the three countries was said to be leading to the possible isolation of Tanzania and Burundi or to pulling them along to join the others.

Tanzania shrugged and scoffed at such suggestions, saying they were inconsequential and that the trio could go ahead with their plans. Some Tanzanians even claimed that not much could be done without their country since it was the regional centre of gravity.

That initial disdainful dismissal of what has come to be known as the tripartite arrangement has given way to realism. Now Tanzania and Burundi are chafing at being left out by the other three partner states. The prospect of isolation, or at any rate being left behind, is looming.

Indication that this change of attitude is happening came from a recent meeting of the East African Council of Ministers in Arusha.

A lot of good may come from the decisions of Presidents Paul Kagame, Yoweri Museveni and Uhuru Kenyatta to go it alone. They are now likely to pull along the other reluctant partners after all.

In many senses both the actions of Kenya, Uganda and Rwanda and the new response by Burundi and Tanzania had to happen at some point. Exasperation among East African Community enthusiasts with Tanzania for its slow pace towards integration was bound to trigger some reaction or other.

It is not a coincidence that the three countries chose to address the very areas where Tanzania has been less cooperative: single customs territory, non-tariff barriers, free movement of people, goods, services and capital, infrastructure and political federation.

For long the excuse of the Tanzanian leadership was that their citizens should not be stampeded into faster integration because there was no urgency and in any case they needed time to grasp the concept.

As it now turns out, that was only a pretext. Ordinary Tanzanians now recognise that the other three partner states are determined to go ahead without them. The prospect of achieving what they have set out to do is very real. The likelihood of isolation, or at the very least being left behind, is also becoming real and is being voiced by ordinary people.

Politicians are now picking it up because it is becoming a serious issue and likely to make them climb down from their arrogant position.

This change of attitude has obviously been forced on the Tanzanian leadership. They now realise they might lose out if the other countries establish a single customs territory and also start using a single-tourist visa. And despite repeated denials, plans to build the oil and transport infrastructure in the northern corridor will significantly affect the volume of cargo along the central corridor.

Already, there are examples of a climb down. Tanzania unilaterally hiked charges on Rwandan-registered trucks ferrying transit goods through its territory. Rwanda retaliated and raised charges on Tanzanian trucks. Tanzania cried foul but in the end backed down and reduced the charges they had set without consultation.

The decision was not, of course, a result of good neighbourly feelings. It was the product of hard-nosed business calculations. Tanzania has more trucks doing business from the port of Dar es Salaam to Kigali and on to northern Burundi and the Democratic Republic of Congo. It was therefore bound to lose from a protracted tariff war.

The same considerations are probably coming into play with regard to the tripartite arrangements between Kenya, Rwanda and Uganda. The fear of loss and isolation will make the Tanzanian leadership find their East African feet and recognise that it is in their best interest to travel together with their partners and at the same pace.

They might yet rediscover the integrationist spirit of their predecessors. Historically, ideologically and even in practical terms, Tanzania was the most integrationist of the East African countries. This owed in large measure to Mwalimu Julius Nyerere’s Pan-Africanism and de-ethnicisation of the country, and the fact that the country was the home of nearly all liberation movements in East, Central and Southern Africa.

About ten years ago, all that began to change. We began to see the development of an inward looking nationalism and dangerous flashes of xenophobia.

That could yet change again and the previous enthusiasm for a united East Africa return. The fear of isolation and loss of business may bring that about.


Raila Odinga returns to natural habitat

2 Apr

The suspense is over. The anxious waiting has ended. The Supreme Court of Kenya’s ruling last Saturday cleared the way for Mr Uhuru Kenyatta to be sworn in next Tuesday, 9th April, as the fourth president of Kenya. It also means that Mr Raila Odinga, Kenyatta’s main challenger, must return to familiar territory – the opposition.

In a sense this seems the most natural outcome. Mr Odinga has spent most of his political life in the opposition that it is difficult to envisage him in a different role. Indeed it might even be said that opposition politics is Odinga’s natural habitat.

By temperament and long historical conditioning, Odinga’s mind has been set on bringing down governments, not building them.

Even when he was in government, first in the Daniel arap Moi’s administration in the late 1990s and more recently as a joint principal in the Grand Coalition with President Mwai Kibaki, he always acted as if he were on the outside and opposed the set up that he was part of.

Mr Odinga is not alone in this. Most of his allies and advisors have a similar political mindset moulded during their long stay in the opposition. Many of them started as student activists against the Moi government and matured into politicians opposed to the same government. Others matured into civil society activism where they have remained. All have failed to make the transition from those earlier positions.

However, Odinga’s going back to what he knows best is not necessarily a bad thing. He and his associates are expected to provide a worthy opposition to the Uhuru Kenyatta – William Ruto administration, keep them in check and hopefully that should benefit Kenyan democracy and the wider East African region.

There is one proviso, though – that he keeps his coalition intact and other such arrangements survive the electoral outcome. That is doubtful.

If there is any serious contribution that Mr Odinga has made to Kenyan politics, it is the politics of coalition. Kenyan style coalitions are typically the coming together of political parties for the express purpose of removing an incumbent president from power or denying another accession to power. As such, they often reflect the interests of party leaders. Seldom are they formed on the basis of principle, ideology or common programme.

Because of this, coalitions and alliances are seasonal. They rarely survive beyond a particular election. And while Odinga has been behind nearly every political alliance in Kenya, he is also responsible for wrecking most of them. His track record in this respect is impressive.

His first involvement in making and breaking coalitions was with FORD (Forum for the Restoration of Democracy) formed by his father, Jaramogi Oginga Odinga and Kenneth Matiba to remove Daniel arap Moi in the 1992 elections. Soon, FORD split into tribal and regional factions and the attempt to remove Moi from power failed.

Raila Odinga eventually left his father’s faction, FORD- Kenya and joined the National Development Party (NDP) to fight the 1997 elections, which Moi again won.

Soon after this failure, Odinga engineered the merger of NDP and KANU, the party he had quit before. He left KANU again following President Moi’s endorsement of Uhuru Kenyatta as the party’s presidential candidate in the 2002 elections. Together with Kalonzo Musyoka, his losing running mate in the 2013 elections, and some other disaffected members from KANU, he formed the Rainbow Movement and joined the Liberal Democratic Party,  which he led into a coalition with Mwai Kibaki’s National Alliance of Kenya (NAK), itself an alliance of smaller parties, to form the National Rainbow Coalition (NARC). NARC defeated Uhuru Kenyatta’s KANU and Mwai Kibaki was elected president in 2002.

Odinga, however, was not happy within NARC, complaining that Kibaki had not fulfilled pre-coalition agreements about sharing cabinet posts. He and his associates subsequently left NARC and formed the Orange Democratic Movement (ODM) which he led in the 2007 elections. NARC as a national coalition was effectively destroyed, leading to the formation of other alliances.

Kibaki contested the election under another alliance, the Party of National Unity (PNU). He was declared winner. Odinga contested the verdict. Violence broke out in which thousands died or were displaced. Former UN Secretary General Kofi Annan brokered a Grand Coalition between PNU and ODM that saw Kibaki remain president and Odinga become Prime Minister. The conduct of government was, however, fraught with disagreements about practically everything, with the notable exception of the referendum on a new constitution.

The March 2013 elections were all about coalitions. Odinga led the Coalition for Reform and Democracy (CORD), Uhuru Kenyatta, Jubilee and Musalia Mudavadi, Amani. There were other smaller ones.

Given Odinga’s coalition destruction record, will CORD survive till the next election, or shall we see yet another political alliance?

Mr Odinga will spend more time in the opposition for another reason – arrogance. His now infamous retort about governing the country from The Hague via Skype will surely haunt him for quite a while.

One will also recall his ill-advised derisive dismissal of a political scientist’s prediction of the election outcome based on the analysis of registered voters in given parts of the country – what he called the tyranny of numbers. As it turned out, the political scientist was right. Odinga was wrong.

The arrogance seems to have developed from what he interpreted as endorsement by Western leaders. He had hobnobbed with many of them on his many foreign travels and thought he was already president. Former US Assistant Secretary of State for Africa, Johnnie Carson, with his warning of consequences if Kenyatta was elected and the British High Commissioner to Kenya saying very much the same thing gave him further false confidence.

In this sense Raila Odinga behaved like some Rwandan politicians who put much store on foreign backing and completely ignore the local population. They have many interesting stories to tell about their folly. Now Odinga has them too.