The Anti-Tanzania Axis
During his inauguration President Kenyatta said, “. …My administration is therefore committed to regional trade and cooperation and will continue to strengthen ties through the free movement of people, goods and investment, including the removal of tariff and non-tariff barriers to trade within the East African Community (EAC). My goal is to see the continued growth of our community towards ultimate integration.”
Compared to the AU, which is a bazaar of stubbornly refusing-to-retire octogenarians, the East African Community is a breath of fresh air, and like many other regional blocks has distinguished itself as nimble and agile in responding to emerging challenges.
It was therefore galling when during President Obama’s tour of Africa, President Kenyatta attended a tripartite summit with President Kagame of Rwanda and President Museveni of Uganda to spite President Kikwete of Tazania and Obama.
Consorting with Museveni and Kagame is bad politics at several levels- both are bitter. Museveni conveniently exploited the scarecrow of Idi Amin for as long as he could but this no longer has traction with a younger Ugandan audience. Kagame, likewise, has exploited the “guilt bonus” of the 1994 genocide within his country and with the West as far as he can. Both are now running on empty and seeing shadows in every corner. Domestically, both are on the throes of transitional challenges neither of which are going as planned.
Museveni’s reign on the military was dealt a severe blow when his attempt at surreptitiously imposing his son as his successor was exposed by General Tinyefunza. Additionally, Museveni’s hold on the ruling party is on the wane. His paranoid crackdown on an active and by no means threatening opposition belies a regime whose legitimacy is thin.
At the same time, Kagame’s democratic credentials have always been suspect and his rule has largely been sustained through brute force. His crackdown on the opposition, the media, and any alternative forces has been legendary. The international community made peace with his rule as long as Rwanda’s economy was growing and the threat of sliding back was minimal. This was, in large part, out of lingering guilt, something Kagame energetically exploited. However, now this is losing its forceful luster. Lately Kagame has come under heat for his military’s nefarious activity in DRC. His defense has largely looked weak and his posture reeks of unfettered sense of entitlement.
On the other hand, Tanzania has conducted multiple political transitions smoothly. And the upcoming transitional election will not be hugely different. This is despite that the incumbent party Chama Cha Mapinduzi (CCM) has been in power since independence and is currently facing serious competition from the opposition for the first time. Unlike in Rwanda where Kagame keeps all guessing on whether he will seek another term, and in Uganda where Museveni is trying to engineer his son to succeed him, Kikwete, after serving his two constitutional terms is certain to leave.
During President Kenyatta’s inauguration, President Musveni said, “I was one of those that supported the ICC because I abhor impunity. However, the usual opinionated and arrogant actors using their careless analysis have distorted the purpose of that institution” he added, “They are now using it [the ICC] to install leaders of their choice in Africa and eliminate the ones they do not like”. This off course is vantage Museveni, he used the ICC when it suited him, and now, when it is convenient he’s turning against the ICC; when he wanted to demonize the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA), the rebel group led by fanatical Joseph Kony, who wants to overthrow Museveni and establish a government based on the 10 commandments, it was convenient for Museveni to report LRA and Kony to the ICC. And now that Kony is no longer a threat, he has lost some of his military leaders, and the North has been pacified, and even the Acholi people in whose name he has launched the rebellion are fed up on him, Museveni has truned into a strident anti-ICC advocate. What makes when circumstances are different for Museveni to stop lending support to Kenyatta? Museveni’s turnaround is nothing new, it is his stock in trade; when he assumed power in 1986, he was a dyed in the wool Marxist leftist leader, when he wanted the international development aid, he was a vociferous advocate if neoliberal market model.
All of this is to say, to create a league of democrats in the region, Uhuru should look up to Tanzania, not to Uganda and Rwanda, or at the very minimum, not isolate Tanzania, the largest country in the region.
Further, Museveni for a long time, and Kagame latter have positioned Uganda and Rwanda as an anchor state in the fluid Great Lakes Region. Museveni after seeing his position as the ultimate arbiter in the Great Lakes has slowly moved to the Horn of Africa via Somalia. But the inescapable reality about the Horn is Ethiopia despite the departure of Meles is the indispensable big brother. It has the means, one of the largest and sophisticated military on the continent, a population to match, unprecedented economic growth over the past few years, and a real security imperative to pay a close attention to what is going on in Somalia. Its unfettered support by the Western powers because of counterterrorism effort, without forgetting it is also the home of the AU, makes any competition to be in its favor.
But the one area that is sorely lacking in leadership is in the Great Lakes and especially regarding the Democratic Republic of Congo. Both Uganda and Rwanda are buffeted by endless accusation of pillaging the country’s vast resources and sponsoring the ceaselessly splintering rebel groups. But they are exhausting any goodwill from the Western community that has tolerated them. But strings of reports from human rights groups and United Nations have placed negative spotlight on both countries. Kenyatta should position Kenya as an alternative. Kenya, unlike most of the countries does not share a border with the DRC, and can deploy its energy is mediating the conflict, adding another cap to its feather, after Sudan’s and Somalia.