East Africa Integration: Why Tanzania is Cautious

Published on 15th December 2008

There is great concern in Kenya and Rwanda in particular with regards to the stance Tanzania has taken reminiscent to the integration of East African states and free movement. The most recent evidence is an article that surfaced in Kenya’s Daily Nation newspaper accusing Tanzania of being a liability in the integration of the region. The said article accused Tanzania of being parochial with full view of rot and poverty!

What brought all this kafuffles is the fact that Tanzania did not consent to free movement of East Africans. This is seen as curtailing the whole process of unifying the region! Full packed with salvos, dirty and unreasonable language, this, if anything, crossed the line so as to cause some brouhahas and bugaboos from the other side- the target. Let me not go the same evil way. Abusive language and threats won’t bring Tanzania into the fold but rather push her far away.  

But why, is Tanzania becoming an obstacle really? If reality is faced, there are strong reasons. The borders we’re taking pride in were demarcated by colonialists in order to weaken and divide us. Our people have always been one and we should strive for this in lieu of double standards and egoism.  

Needless to say, Tanzania is wary but not afraid. Many landless East Africans will invade her and grab her land. This will create animosity among Tanzanians, their government and East Africans from other countries. This stance is somewhat reasonable.  Why should Kenya allow fertile land to be owned by a few rulers and white settlers without paying a damn to the majority landless? The family of the country's first president, Jomo Kenyatta, owns a chunk of land the size of Nyanza Province. His successor, Daniel arap Moi and   Mwai Kibaki own big parcels of land, not to mention former British settlers. In May 2006 Cholmondeley, grandson of Lord Delamere, shot dead an innocent Kenyan for ‘trespassing’ on his Soysambu farm. 

If we sincerely mean business, Kenya should harmonize her notorious and nasty land policies whilst Uganda and Rwanda should embrace true democracy. Otherwise egoistic ‘ours is mine but mine is mine’ will never help. No fool at this time can subscribe to this bulimia. Kenyan authorities should be told to their face that without equal and fair re-distribution of land, the whole process will end up a cropper. 

Let’s look at another naked reality. Even if one compares the population of Tanzania and other East African countries, he’ll see why Tanzania is hesitating. Look at the reality in numbers: Burundi is 27,830 sq km with a population of 8,691,005 or 315 people concentrated in a square kilometre; Rwanda is 26,338 sq km with a population of 8.3 million that is set to double to 16 million by 2020. Its population density is the highest in Africa and has risen from 183 per sq km in 1981 to 345 per sq km in 2000. Rwanda’s rural population per square kilometre of arable land was around 901 in 1999 -- one of the highest in Africa. Kenya is 582,650 sq km with a population of over 30 million. Density is 2 settlers per sq. km, while in the rich and fertile western region, population density goes up to 120 settlers per sq. km. Uganda is 241,139 sq km with a population of at least 27.7 million and a density of 241 per sq km in 1999. Its population is projected to explode to approximately 66,305,000 by 2050. Tanzania is 945,100 sq km and, according to the United Nations, had an estimated population of 36,977,000 in 2003. The population density was then 39 per sq km.  

Demographic realities are not something to ignore. Even the superpower and richest country of the world, the US, is currently erecting a 3,200 kilometre fence on its border with Mexico to curb illegal immigrants. But Mexico like Kenya does not see this.

Another point the detractors put forth is that Tanzania is afraid of Kenya’s vibrant economy. Let us face it. No African country can take pride when its economy run by corrupt officials in conjunction with foreigners. Who owns Kenya’s economy? Does the guy living in Kibera or  Mathare associate himself with it? How can this “vibrant” economy become meaningful if the rulers do not even want to pay tax? 

The economy that does not serve the majority of the citizenry is as good as nothing. So instead of fearing each other, we need to put our houses in order so as to integrate our people who, in essence, have no obstacle to this integration and they are always ready.

Another oft-ignored fact is that not all East African countries are under democratic rule. In Rwanda and Uganda, there are autocratic regimes- not to mention rebels fighting them and  Kenya’s tribal animosity. So shall this be ignored, peaceful countries like Tanzania will nary blindly consent to this suttee. This is a challenge to other countries to cleanse their messes so as to forge ahead. 

Anybody doubting Tanzania’s commitment to the integration must go back to history which is a good judge. Shortly before attaining independence in 1961, Tanzania wanted to delay its autonomy until all colonies in East Africa were ready for the same status. What exemplary pan-African love and spirit! Tanzania still remembers the loss suffered from the 1977 debacle of the first East African Community as a result of megalomaniac rule in Kenya and Uganda spearheaded by Kenya’s former AG, Charles Njonjo.  

We must face all these realities before complaining or giving in. My belief is strong that East African countries will unite. But this should go tete a tete with putting our houses in order. If our rulers truly mean unification, let them form one country instead of looking at their presidency.Tanzania has all reasons to worry and curtail the integration. Shall we fairly and diligently treat ourselves; we’d dwell on our strength in lieu of weakness and egoism.   

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