Africa is the origin of man, four and a half million years ago. All human beings only lived in Africa until about 100,000 years ago. The last ice-age ended 11,700 years ago. Before that, people could not live in many parts of the North of our Globe. Therefore, the European Stock (Europeans, Americans, Canadians, Australians), the Asians, the Arabs etc., are all former Africans. They lost the melanin (the black pigmentation in the skin) in their skins on account of their living in the cold climates, with little sunshine, where melanin is not required.
Africa is the pioneer of civilization. The Egyptian civilization which started around 5200 years ago, around 3000 BC, is one of the earliest civilizations of the human race. The three great religions of the modern world were succored by Africa in one way or another. These are Christianity, Judaism and Islam. Baby Jesus was hidden in Egypt when King Herod started killing all the infants. This is found in the Book of Matthew 2:13-14 in the Bible. Before that, in the year 1567BC, the Jews had been saved from starvation when one of the children of Jacob, Joseph, who had been sold into slavery by his brothers, took them into Egypt where there was plenty. This is found in the Book of Genesis Chapter 42 verses 1-10, in the Bible.
Yet, this Africa of many firsts in the history of the human race, has faced calamity after calamity in the last 500 years. These calamities have included: the slave trade, colonialism, genocide in some cases, neo-colonialism and marginalization. Why has this been so?
Africa, which had achieved many firsts for the human race, had some internal weaknesses which made it difficult for its people to respond to the threats that emerged after 1453 AD. This was the year the Ottoman Turks, people coming out of Central Asia, captured Constantinople, the capital of the Eastern Roman Empire. By so doing, they blocked the over-land silk route which had been pioneered by Marco Polo in the years 1271 to 1368. Since Marco Polo, silk and spices were coming through this route. Now, that route was closed and Western Europe was cut off from the products of the East, that they had come to treasure.
A frantic search for a sea route to the East by the Europeans started, led by Portugal. Better ships were, eventually, built and the Portuguese got to Sierra Leone in the year 1460. By 1498, Vasco Da Gama went around the Southern tip of Africa and, on Christmas day, landed at Natal, hence the name of that place up to now, coming from the Latin word, natalis (Natal).
A few years earlier, in 1492, Christopher Columbus, working for the newly United Kingdom of Spain (Castille and Aragon United in the year 1479), had reached a whole new continent, America, whose off-shore Islands, the Caribbeans, he mistook to be the Islands of the East, hence the eventual name of the West Indies. Therefore, on account of the pressure created by the Turks on the Europeans, the Europeans had burst out of their homelands and started accessing the lands of Africa, America and Asia through the Atlantic and the Indian Oceans.
This is when the weaknesses of Africa and the Americas came to the fore. The indigenous populations of the Americas could not withstand the afflictions of the European invasion and many of them perished; they were exterminated and their lands were taken over by the immigrants from Europe. Hence, the Europeans became the Americans. Those who did not perish, were marginalized. Since the Africans do not die easily, they survived the 500 years of foreign invasions but having gone through many privations: slave trade, colonialism, in some cases genocide, etc.
Why couldn’t Africa defeat these invasions? Indeed by 1900, the whole of Africa had been defeated except for Ethiopia which defeated the Italian invaders in the battle of Adua in 1896. According to our analysis, it was not because of lack of courage or the will to resist. It was, mainly, on account of political balkanization. The African population is only divided into four linguistic groups. These are: Niger-Congo (Bantu and Kwa); the Nilo-Saharan (Hamitic, Nilotic and Nilo-Hamitic); the Afro-Asiatic (Arabic, Tigrinya and Amharic); and Khoisan (so called bushmen in Southern Africa). Therefore, the entirety of the African peoples are either similar or linked.
I can pick words that are similar to the ones in my dialect, Runyankore in the Bantu dialects, all the way from Cameroon to South Africa. 2000 miles away in South Africa, for instance, the Zulus and Xhosas greet: “Saubhona,” which, I suspect, means: “I have seen you.” This must be from the verb: “Kubona” – meaning “to see.” In my dialect, Runyankore, the verb “kubona” means to find something that has been lost. In Swahili, however, the verb: “kuwona” means exactly what it means in the South African dialects. That is within the Bantu cluster of dialects. Even between clusters – e.g. Niger-Congo versus Nilo-Saharan ─ you find similarities. The Nubians of Southern Egypt and North Sudan, apparently, use the word: Nina to mean “Mother.”
In many of the dialects of the Bantus of the Great Lakes, the word for Mother is: “nyina.” Amazing. The Somali word for cow is Saa. In the Bantu dialects of the Great Lakes, the word Saa is specifically and exclusively used for cow-dung (obusa, amasha, amasa, etc). Therefore, these African peoples are either similar or linked. Indeed, if you use the word “nation” to mean a people from a common ancestry or a common heritage, you can say that the entire African population of 1.3billion people today, is comprised of only four nations: the Niger-Congo; the Nilo-Saharan; the Afro-Asiatic; and the Khoisan.
What, then, was the problem? Why couldn’t Africa defend itself against the invaders? Why is Africa still weak today? According to our study, the answer lies in political balkanization. By the 1400s, Africa was governed by small Kingdoms, Chiefdoms or, sometimes, by segmentary arrangements (the rule of age – groups).
The Europeans tried to swallow China; but it was too big to swallow. They tried to swallow Japan; it was too big to swallow. They tried to swallow Ethiopia; but it was too big to swallow. The African Kingdoms and Chiefdoms were swallowable when confronted by the more organized groups from outside. The gradual defeat of Africa from 1400-1900, caused serious distortions which are captured in a number of studies we have made.
Apart from slave trade and other haemorrhages inflicted on the African societies, there was also the gradual destruction of the artisan classes (the black smiths, the carpenters, the copper-smiths, the medicine men, etc.) and replacing their products with the imported ones. Even with the primitive societies, they always produced their own food, their own clothes, their own weapons (spears, bows and arrows, etc.) and means for their own shelter (housing materials). It may only be the Africans of the colonial and neo-colonial era that depend on the food, clothes, weapons and building materials of others. All this was a consequence of the distortions emanating from colonialism.
Nevertheless, by a combination of factors, the African countries regained their independence, starting with Egypt in 1922, Sudan in 1956 and Ghana in 1957. What were these factors? These were: Africans refusing to be exterminated like the American Indians and the Australian Aborigines; the resistance by the African freedom fighters; the support of the socialist countries such as the USSR and China; and the wars among the imperialists ─ the so called 1st and 2nd World Wars ─which weakened them so much to our advantage. By 1994, the last part of Africa under foreign control, South Africa, regained their political freedom.
What, however, is amazing is that many of the African political elite, the intellectuals, the other social leaders etc., have not bothered to investigate the cause of our near extinction in the last 500 years and to look for ways of how we can immunize ourselves against any and all threats against our survival, our sovereignty, our security and our prosperity in our land. That is how we come to the two issues that we regard as crucial for our future.
These are: political and economic integration of Africa. Our view is that African integration means three things: prosperity, security and fraternity. We cannot guarantee our prosperity if we do not solve the issue of market. When companies or families produce products (goods) or services, how many consumers will buy those products? If a product does not have enough buyers, the business will fail. In Uganda, recently we had a big crop of maize. We produced 5 million tonnes; but Uganda consumes only 1 million tonnes. The prices collapsed. Many farmers will move away from maize in the coming seasons. This is just one example. Many others can be quoted across Africa.
We, therefore, need economic integration to provide market for our producing families and companies to be assured of a market on principles of competitiveness. The integrated African market will not only stimulate production in Africa, it will also enable us to negotiate credibly with the other big markets such as the USA, China, India, Russia, European Union, etc. It is good that, recently, we agreed on the Continental Free Trade Area (CFTA). Let us implement its provisions. It is the way to prosperity and part of the answer for under-development, poverty and joblessness.
However, economic integration, even if it creates prosperity for our individual countries, will not answer the issue of strategic security against global threats. The Americans are talking of four dimensional superiority: superiority on land, in the air, at sea and in space. Recently, President Donald Trump was talking about creating a Space Army. Many African countries do not yet have even a capable Army on land, let alone air, navy or space. What is the future? Even when our individual countries become first World or Middle Income countries, they cannot, individually, have the strategic capacity to defend themselves against the global super-powers. In the Second World War, the first victims of aggression were the developed but small countries of Europe: Holland, Belgium, Denmark, Poland, etc.
Israel, technologically, is a super-power. However, strategically, Israel would be hard-pressed to survive in the Middle East without the partnership of the United States. Therefore, in the end, size also matters. That is why, therefore, we say that, in addition to economic integration, where feasible, political integration is very crucial. The present 54 States of Africa, even when they are developed, may not be able to guarantee our future against greedy global powers. The attack by the Western countries against Libya was a shame to Africa. That is why, therefore, for the 55 years, I have been in the footsteps of Mwalimu Julius Nyerere on the issue of the East African Federation (the political integration of Kenya, Tanzania and Uganda).
The EAC has since expanded to include: Rwanda, Burundi and South Sudan. These people are specific groupings of the African peoples comprised of the Interlacustrine Bantus (the Bantus of the Lakes) and the Interlacustrine Nilotics, Interlacustrine Nilo-Hamitic and Interlacustrine Cushitic. These groups have great similarities in dialects and also linkages among different clusters. Above all, they have the good fortune of having the de-tribalized dialect of Swahili. The six countries are working upon the issue of Confederation and, ultimately, Federation. The politically united States of East Africa, with the present population of 170 million, which will be 878 million by 2050, with I million square miles of land territory, would be equal to India in land area. Such a unit would be cohesive, around Swahili, as well as a centre of gravity for African security. It would be capable of any tasks ─ to defend Africa, if necessary, on land, at sea or in space since that is what others want.
We should, then, look across Africa. Which other areas have such similarities and linkages? How about Southern Africa? How about Central Africa? How about West Africa with its cross-border peoples of the Hausa, Fulani, Yoruba, Akan, Mandigos, etc.? How about North Africa with its people that are Arabic speaking and, mainly, Moslems? How about the Horn of Africa with its confluence of the Cushitic and the Semitic peoples of this area? I would not die from blood pressure if the present 54 States of Africa, the former colonies, were replaced by 10 or States, each about the size of India. When the British forced the independent tribes of our area into a Uganda, they, definitely, did a good thing. If Uganda is a better product than the “Republic” of Ankole, my tribal area, why shouldn’t the Union of East Africa be better?
Is it correct to deify the colonial political architecture of the 54 present countries (52 of them former colonies) and rule out the possibility of a rational re-organization to achieve optimum results? Two colonies of the Dutch ─ Orange Free State and Transvaal were united with the two British colonies ─ Cape Town and Natal to form the Union of South Africa in the year 1910. Everybody is happy with the Union of South Africa. Why can we not improve on what the colonialists did? In 1912, the defeated Africa, initiated a strategic counter-offensive against the invaders when the patriots in South Africa formed the African National Congress (the ANC) which also attracted the great Mahtima Gandhi.
The counter-offensive gathered momentum, including the 5th Pan Africanist Congress of 1945 where our elders like Nkrumah, Kenyatta and others vowed to free Africa from the disgrace of foreign rule, acting in co-ordination. It has, therefore, been an oversight to allow that strategic counter-offensive to peter out after independence. We need to re-ignite and develop that counter-offensive.
Finally, the main point is that the people we are trying to bring together, as pointed out earlier, are either similar to one another or linked. They all belong to the four clusters according to language: Niger-Congo; Nilo-Saharan; Afro-Asiatic and Khoisan. They are fraternal groups. When Muammar Gaddafi was alive, I did not agree with him on the issue of a continental Government now. With trading, I can trade with everybody.
However, political integration needs more intimacy. The peoples should either be similar or compatible. That is why I prefer Mwalimu Nyerere’s strategy of Regional Federations where feasible. Mzee Kwame Nkrumah preferred a continental Government, like Muammar Gaddafi.
Therefore, integration of Africa means 3 issues: prosperity; strategic security; and fraternity. There are longer and more illustrated documents dealing with this issue.
The African leaders since independence, need to be careful not to share the historical condemnation like the one we heap on the pre-colonial chiefs who, for almost 400 years, certainly in the case of the Great Lakes, concentrated on rivalries among themselves, even after Vasco Da Gama had passed by the East African Coast. Instead of uniting our people, they were busy fighting one another with their obsequious subjects heaping pseudo-praises on them.
When the Europeans were ready, after the Berlin Congress, they penetrated the continent and picked up many chiefs like grasshoppers. Europe, America and Asia are now going towards the 4th Industrial Revolution ─the use of intelligent machines. In Africa, we have not even gone through the first and second Industrial Revolutions ─ the use of steam engines and electricity. Yet, the economic and political integrations are crucial stimuli for these changes. The African leaders, therefore, need to work hard so as not to share the fate of the pre-colonial tribal chiefs that let down their peoples.
By H.E. Yoweri Kaguta Museveni
President of Uganda.