Recent reports that former Kenya’s PM Raila Odinga offered to mediate in the ongoing impasse in the East African Community can’t be ignored. As a patriot per excellence, his move is commendable save it is too late. If it’s still workable, Odinga needs to mediate Kenya before anybody else. His policies about land redistribution and restructuring during the March General Elections would have tackled what makes Tanzania sick. Sadly though, Kenyans did not get it. Will they get it this time? Will he succeed given that this impasse involves structural and hype-sensitive issues?
Odinga and those sending him should underscore the following:
First, instead of looking at Tanzania as a reluctant partner and an obstacle presumably, we need to look at the reasons that make Tanzania so. Frankly speaking, land’s a thorny issue that other countries in the so-called Coalition of Willing (COW) chose to ignore pointlessly. Tanzania President Jakaya Kikwete’s recently quoted as saying when he addressed the parliament that Tanzania’s there to stay. Was he serious? Looking at “divorce threats” his ministers Bernard Member (Foreign Affair and International Relations) and Samuel Sitta (EAC affairs) have been issuing, politics aside, Tanzania‘s already exited the EAC. What are left are only formalities. If anything, what’s left is politics. Let’s face it. How can Tanzania openly admit to have ventured in Burundi-DRC-Tanzania Community (BDTC as a quid pro quo to COW) and still be in the EAC?
Again, if Odinga wants to help the EAC, he’d deal with the harmonization of land laws, land use and redistribution of land in Kenya first before jumping on EAC-Tanzania impasse. So too, he’d face Yoweri Museveni and tell him to embrace reasonable and practical democracy. Thereafter, he’d go to Kigali and tell Paul Kagame the same. Will he?
Secondly, Odinga must appreciate the fact that Tanzania isn't happy seeing Kenyan leaders sit on big parcels of land while most of their people are landless. Hither Odinga should face Uhuru Kenyatta and tell him to relinquish the land his family sits on.
Tanzania knows too well how President Kenyatta and his family own the land hyped to be as big as Nyanza Province. If this is true, it’s totally unfair. Tanzania would like to see Kenyatta relinquish this land so that landless Kenyans would own and make use of it. If this be done, verily, the remaining number of landless “East Africans” can be accommodated by Tanzania, the only country with vast land comparably. Tanzania occupies 52% of the whole East Africa area.
Third, leaders in Tanzania don’t decide how to go about EAC’s business without the consent of the people. According to Kikwete, 74.4% of Tanzanians favour EAC. Again, when it comes to fast tracking the EAC, it‘s only 25.4% that supports it. So you can openly see. Arguably, the problem is not whether Tanzania should join the EAC or not but how should it be done.
Kikwete openly shows where the contention is lies. He’s quoted as saying, “In my view, our stand on issues such as land, employment and immigration, sometimes, make others have wrong views about us.” If the problem’s clearly stated why should we beat around the bush instead of taking on it?
More importantly as Tanzania is concerned, there are some other issues that need to be ironed out. For example, Rwanda and Uganda had nary embraced true democracy. How do you unify such countries without solving such problems? Who has power legally to decide the form and time of the unification between the people and their rulers? We need to learn from Uganda under Idd Amin. Evidently, Amin’s maltreatments of Ugandans forced Mwalimu Julius Nyerere to openly step up the efforts to dispose Amin something Nyerere did in 1978. What is going on in Rwanda and Uganda especially allegations that they’re destabilizing DRC has forced Tanzania to act to the extent that there is news of thinking about cobbling EAC-like unity? Odinga noted on this saying, “Kenya and the rest of EAC stand to suffer immensely economically if Tanzania were to team up with DRC and Burundi in another union.” DRC and Tanzania know this too well and they’re working on their own COW. Essentially, Odinga seems to heed Benjamin Franklin’s nugget of wisdom when he said, “We must all hang together or assuredly we shall hang separately.” We’d truly decide to hang together or separated but there’s no way we can do both.
There’s another sensitive issue. Tanzania sent soldiers to DRC where Rwanda and Uganda are openly accused by the international community of backing the M23 rebels in DRC that were flashed out recently. Tanzania’s move culminated into the surfacing of bad blood between Kikwete and Rwandan counterpart Paul Kagame. So too, refer to a recent report by UN experts that water tightly implicated Rwanda of her bully behaviour in DRC. By sending troops to DRC, Tanzania’s wrongly regarded as going against other EAC countries. But again, Tanzania went to DRC under the auspice of UN. Ironically, Tanzania’d nary contributed any contingent to Somalia despite being the victim of piracy.
To cut a long story short, the Coalition Of Willing (COW) needs to be disbanded before thinking about mediating Tanzania and COW. Looking at the look at the things, if COW does not agree to put its house in order, chances are that the existing impasse’ll grow even larger.
Source: The African Executive Magazine Nov.,13, 2013.