Considering how some East Africa Community member states have been reacting after being hit by COVID-19 pandemic, there are some issues they need to seriously consider and iron out. COVID-19 has unearthed some hardships and the practical unification of the region and Africa especially when some countries closed their borders to avoid COVID-19 infections from their neighbours. This speaks to the lack of a united strategy towards fighting the contagion.
Before the criminal Berlin Conference of 1884, all contemporary African countries were united entities. People along today’s Namanga border, inter alia, would operate freely without any disturbance, mistrust and infringement on their natural freedom of movement and cooperation. They didn’t know that they were citizens of different countries. They were just Africans in their big country known as Africa. However, they had their organic nationalities which the West branded tribes. That’s why the Masai on both sides of the border, for example, still regard themselves as the citizens of one country known as Masailand; not to mention, the Swahili on Horohoro––Lunga Lunga or the Kurya and Luhya on Busia, Isibania borders respectively.
Soon after Africa was divided and partitioned into fake, feeble and fickle states, there were born divided, exploited, weak and ever-dependent contemporary countries tied to the Peace Treaty of Westphalia (1648) as if they were European.
Fortunately, in the 60s, African countries became independent, although they are covertly controlled and divided up until now. Ever since, these states have done nothing but furthering, internalising and reinforcing coloniality by maintaining colonial divisions.
African luminaries such Julius Nyerere (Tanzania) Ahmed Sekou Touré (Guinea), Kwame Nkrumah (Ghana) and many more tried to reunite Africa but those who succeeded these founders became myopic and sitting ducks that dark forces have always used to hamper, sabotage and suffocate the unification of Africa. African leaders have failed to reunify Africa for fear of losing the accumulations and prestige that come with being in state house.
East Africa has not been left out in the bid to reunite Africa as a whole or regionally. It embarked on the unification of the region giving birth to the East African Community. Practically, the move that EAC took was an antithesis and challenge to the rest of Africa that refused to reunite. Other bids towards unification include unions of federations such as Senegal-Gambia or Senegambia (1982-1989) and the Economic Commission of West African States (ECOWAS-1975 to present) among notable ones.
Why the EAC and Africa must shake off their colonial after-effects; and thereby embark on true reunification of the region
First, reunification means returning back to the organic formula which gave the region and Africa the edge and clout of living without necessarily depending on handouts from rich countries as it currently is after being colonized in the 18th Century; thereby ushering in exploitation and imperialism that has seen Africa become the backwater of the world.
Second, practical reunification of the region will create many economic, political and social opportunities such as interdependence, interconnectedness peace, prosperity and above all, trade as the barbs for strength. We inevitably and out of necessity need each other even if we don’t like or love each other.
Third, the reunification of the region will enable it and Africa in general to assert its power globally not to mention increasing security and good use of endowed humongous resources. A united EAC and Africa won’t have the many despotic presidents that are responsible for exploiting Africa as black colonizers or agents of colonialism sustained by armies.
Fourth, oft-border squabbles will never bother neighbours as it currently is. Refer to how COVID-19 responses in the EAC threatened to set them against each other. A united Africa will allow citizens in one mega-country known as Africa or the EAC to do business among themselves hence changing the current trend of increased trade with non-African countries. One can choose a friend but not a neighbour. Our interconnectedness is organic and inevitable.
Fifth, reunification will increase production as a spur by which to grow economically due to the fact that, instead of importing goods from afar, Africa will have an internal supply of some goods it imports from abroad. So, too, it’ll cut the costs of running business and production not to mention environmental degradation from the machinery used to transport goods so as to enhance good prices for the products produced and traded within Africa. Similarly, by having one united country, there won’t be any many presidents, armies, immigration offices and the likes.
Sixth, a united Africa or the EAC will produce what it needs first and thereby satisfactorily feed its people. I wonder why some countries are importing onions from the EU. According to the Agri trade (2011), in January and February 2011, Senegal, Côte d’Ivoire and Mauritania purchased more Dutch onions. In 2009, 42% of Dutch onion exports to West Africa went to Senegal, 22% to Côte d’Ivoire and 13% to Mauritania. This is shameful and surreal for Africa in general. Why import food stuffs on top of industrial product as if Africa is a barren continent?
Africa needs to reunite and stop caterwauling like a baby. Shutting borders at each other for fear of COVID-19 may make sense. Yet, in the long run, it shows how divided we are. United we stand, divided we fall. At best, COVID-19 needs to unite but not divide us as it currently seems to be the case.
By Nkwazi Mhango
Mhango is a lifetime member of the Writers' Alliance of Newfoundland and Labrador (WANL) and author of over 20 books among which are Africa Reunite or Perish, 'Is It Global War on Terrorism' or Global War over Terra Africana? How Africa Developed Europe and contributed many chapters in scholarly works.