East Africa: The Benefits of Regional Integration

Published on 24th January 2018

I congratulate the new EALA Speaker, Martin Ngoga, upon his election. I had been briefed about the disagreements preceding the election but I am glad that you finally agreed and conducted elections.

About integration, our first aim is prosperity. We integrate to build markets and ensure our people's prosperity. I have heard people talking of hunger in the region yet Uganda is producing 5 million tonnes of maize annually and we consume only one million tonnes.

The Ugandans in Arusha should not be fighting for Speakership of EALA, they should be fighting to find market for these products like maize, and fighting for their people's prosperity. Work for unity of markets. Fight for East Africans involved in production.

In 1965, Kenyans liberated me from Coca-Cola. The beverage was the only decent drink one would find then. One day, I came across packed milk, KCC, from Kenya. I stopped drinking Coca-Cola but also began contributing to the prosperity of Kenyan farmers by consuming their milk. That's why we need markets.

The Germany case study is important here. Until 1871, Germany was not one country. They were Germans by culture and race but in 39 Kingdoms. What sparked the Pan-German movement were the big farmers in Prussia, the Junkers. They were producing but could not sell in the whole of Germany. Led by Bismarck, they fought borders which were interfering with their prosperity.

The second case for integration is fraternity (undugu). The Speaker's name, Ngoga, means "strength" in Kinyarwanda but in Kinyankole it means both "strength and speed."

My minister for EAC Affairs, Julius Maganda, is most likely a Kenyan. One time Kenya had a Vice President called Moody Awori yet his brother was taking me on in a presidential election here. What all this shows is that our people are linked. We're talking of people either similar or linked by language, culture or history.

The third purpose for integration is strategic security. America has one of the best presidents ever. Donald Trump speaks to Africans frankly. The Africans need to solve their problems. In the world, you can't survive if you are weak. It is the Africans fault that they are weak. We are12 times the size of India, with growing population, but why are we not strong?

We also integrate so that we can manage shared resources effectively. Take the example of Lake Victoria. It cannot be managed in isolation. It must be managed on an East African basis. If we say there should be 500m of vegetation around the lake, we should all do it.

River Kagera water used to be blue, it's now brown due to erosion happening upstream. It means its bringing all soil from Burundi, Rwanda, to Lake Victoria, which is silting up and will gradually shrink. The same soil affects the fish stock in the lake.

The collapse of the first EAC caused missed opportunities. We would never have had an Idi Amin in Uganda. The Rwanda genocide would never have happened. The RPF ended the genocide but I could only support them covertly.

In a nutshell, integration is about the future of our people. It's not about positions. When I hear you quarrel about positions, I feel sorry.

By Yoweri Museveni

President of Uganda during the 2nd Meeting of the 1st Session of the 4th East Africa Legislative Assembly in Kampala

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