Brewing Feuds: Will the EAC Survive?

Published on 25th June 2013

Presidents Kagame, Kikwete and Museveni          P. Courtesy
Those who bother to go back to history books will agree with us that bad blood between former Tanzania President Julius Nyerere and Idi Amin, former Uganda President in 1977 stalled the then EA community that aimed at unifying east African countries.

Of late, the bad blood between Presidents Jakaya Kikwete and Paul Kagame is likely to make history repeat itself. It all started when Kikwete urged Rwanda to negotiate with Forces Democratiques de Liberation du Rwanda (FDLR) rebels so as to move forward. Such proposition received all types of insults and salvos from Kigali. Kikwete, for the first time, dubiously and unfairly, was linked to genocide and called a genocider. Soon after, Kikwete urged Rwanda to negotiate with the rebels, Kigali embarked on media campaigns painting Kikwete as an emissary for rebels who essentially are genociders in the eyes of Rwanda.

One wonders how humans are hard when it comes to learn from history! It goes with the saying, “We learn from history that we don't learn from history!” Desmond Tutu. Interestingly, it is the same Tanzania that tried to negotiate dialogue between Juvenal Habyarimana (former president of Rwanda) and Kagame (then leader of the Rwandese Patriotic Front (RPF) rebels).

I am trying to imagine if Habyarimana would have taken the same stance as Kagame has taken. Would Kagame been in power today after being defeated by Habyarimana for long? Who’s fooling who hither? Maybe, Tanzania is paying for its sins of creating Museveni and Kagame. 

While Rwanda is demonizing Kikwete, other SADC countries have supported his move. Sadly though, Rwanda seems to have forgotten the role Tanzania played in ending the Rwanda conflict.  Again, I read one article in the New Times of Rwanda which was quoted as thus, "And so he was because, as Tanzanian foreign affairs minister, he was watching as the Genocide was being planned." If my mind serves me well, Kikwete was not minister for Foreign Affairs during and after the genocide. Why are people telling lies to justify their lies?

Since the installment of a new regime in Kigali under Paul Kagame in 1994, Rwanda has nary tolerated any advice pertaining to dialoguing with rebels or introducing true democracy. Whoever tries to tell Rwanda to think about talking to rebels is painted with the same brush.

What irked Rwanda the most is the fact that Kikwete is seen as preempting and executing a bigger plan backed by other countries. Coincidentally, Kikwete’s advice to Rwanda to negotiate with rebels comes at the same time the US president Barack Obama is expected to tour the country.  One of the Rwandan daily was quoted as saying, "If President Kikwete’s advice was meant to distract, it has done the opposite. It has put people on their guard and made them more determined not to be derailed but to deliver more imihigo." It is sad to note that Rwanda could openly say that Tanzania wants to derail their efforts to build their country.

Those who know Kikwete do not wonder. In his own country, on many occasions, Kikwete has spoken generously. In 2011, he signed a doctored bill that he later annulled. He once told Tanzanians that he did not know why they are poor. He added that when Tanzanians experience traffic jams, they should take them as economic growth.

Regarding reviving the Eat African Community, only Kenya is left with the sanity to mediate this eminent danger given that Tanzania has now become a part to conflict while Uganda is known also to be in vicariously. Burundi has more on its plate.

By Nkwazi Mhango

The author is a Canada based Tanzanian and author of Saa Ya Ukombozi.

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