African politics, Horn Watch

America and China’s arms race in Africa

Africa has become an unlikely Ground Zero in China’s attempt to break America’s global hegemony. Nothing demonstrate this than two tiny African countries with a combined population of less than 3 Million- Namibia 2.303,000 and Djibouti 886, 313 that have become the epicentre of the Sino- American competition.

For comparison, Kansas State, 34th in terms of population, has more people than the combined population of Namibia and Djibouti. In terms of the size Djibouti is the same size as New Jersey.

Remarkably, Africa which until recently was regarded as the backwater of global diplomatic game, a poster child for conflict, famine and coups, because of decades of sustained economic growth and the search for the next frontier by the global powers, placed Africa at the sharp end of geostrategic contest.



As an emerging power, everything China does attracts attention, and therefore, the South China Sea tension rightly hogs the major news headlines- because it ticks off all the necessary diplomatic boxes. However, another equally high octane diplo-maritime competition between China and America is taking place behind the headlines.

Decades of sustained economic growth

Over the last few years, Africa has recorded remarkable stable economic growth; in 2010, Africa had a middle class of about 313 million people, or 34 percent of the population, according to the African Development Bank— almost three times the count in 1980, when they made up 26 percent.

Seven of the world’s 10 fastest-growing economies are in Africa. Seventy percent of the continent’s people live in countries that posted average growth rates in excess of 4 percent over the past decade, has made the continent as the next frontier of business/political and diplomatic.



According to African Development Bank’s 2015 Economic Outlook “many African countries have improved their investment climate and conditions for doing business, which enhance long-term growth prospects. Benin, Côte d’Ivoire, the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), Senegal and Togo are even in the top ten countries worldwide with the most reforms making it easier to do business”.

However, major African currencies have been performing poorly against the major global currencies. Nonetheless, this and many other impressive statistics has made Africa the next frontier of economic growth. The nexus between Africa’s economic growths, hence a decent return on investment, and global powers search for the next place to invest has made the continent a perfect candidate for the competition, with each wooing, as opposed to conditionality- a modus operandi decades ago.

Djibouti’s “Arc of Democracy” or “String of Pearls?

Djibouti has assumed an outsized strategic importance in the Indian Ocean pitting China and United States and its allies. While the United States and its allies would want to make Djibouti part of the Arc of Democracy connecting Djibouti to Port Blair to Yokosuka, China wants Djibouti to be under its Strings of Pearls orbit.

According to reports, China will in the next few years build naval bases in Pakistan, Sri Lanka and Mynanmar in the northern Indian Ocean; Djibouti, Yemen, Oman, Kenya, Tanzania and Mozambique in the western Indian Ocean; and Seychelles and Madagascar in the central South Indian Ocean. Most of these primarily target the lucrative Indian Ocean trade route.

Bab-el-Mandeb Strait.gif


China is in discussions with Djibouti to build a naval base in the town of Obock where lucrative and strategic Bab-el-Mandeb Strait acts as a strategic link between the Indian Ocean and Mediterranean Sea via the Red Sea and the Sauz Canal.

According to the US Energy Information Administration’s (EIA) fact-sheet on global oil chokepoints, 3.8 million barrels of oil and “refined petroleum products” passed through the Bab el-Mandeb each day on its way to Europe, Asia, and the US, making it the world’s fourth-busiest chokepoint.

According to World Oil Transit Chokepoints, Energy Information Administration, US Department of Energy, In 2006, an estimated 3.3 million barrels (520,000 m3) of oil passed through the strait per day, out of a world total of about 43 million barrels per day (6,800,000 m3/d) moved by tankers.

China’s Djibouti overture is back on the heel of United States signing of a 20 years lease for Camp Lemonnier, the Naval Expeditionary Base, situated at Djibouti’s Djibouti-Ambouli International Airport and home to the Combined Joint Task Force – Horn of Africa of the U.S. Africa Command, the face of the United States presence in Africa.

The terms of the lease renewal is about $70 million a year — $63 million in lease fees and the rest in development aid — more than double the current leasing fees of roughly $30 million a year. A clean demonstration of the value the United States attaches to the base.

While in the past China looked at Africa largely through the economic lens as a counter weight to the West, here, stealthy, China is guided by security more than trade, and Djibouti ticks the dual security and trade box.


In Namibia China is exploring building a naval base in Walvis Bay. “The South Atlantic, while below the radar of most policy makers today, has played an outsized role in modern naval history. Therein lies the importance of Walvis Bay’




The Walvis Bay will provide China with the ‘ability to patrol the critical Cape of Good Hope around Africa and Cape Horn around South America. The approaches to the key North Atlantic sea lanes linking the Americas, Africa and Europe would be nearby’

Walvis Bay and Bab-el-Mandeb Strait gives China a significant naval leverage and control of the major routes.

Recognising the critical utility of Walvis Bay, the United States, has embarked on charm offensive; barely three months in office, President Hage Geingob Ray Mabus of Namibia met United State Secretary of the Navy at the Pentagon.

With Facing East- being in China’s sphere of influence, or West being a choice most countries have to make, a stark throwback to the Cold War era, how this two African countries negotiate the tricky ‘double dipping’, will in the future form the template of how to accommodate the West and its technological prowess, and the East, with trade first approach. Either way, the sea change of Africa’s relations with the outsider needs to anchored on a solid mutually beneficial foundation, rather than one way traffic; whether that involves China- the most significant player in recent years, the West- that is playing catch up, or both at the same time.

African politics

On-off-not-there-at-all electricity is Africa’s curse, but watch out for these dams

THE world has caught the new sweet smell of Africa, and it has fired the collective imagination of Africans themselves.

The undoubtedly impressive economic numbers coming out most of the continent are slowly but surely replacing the ubiquitous negative headlines that had marked headlines about the continent for decades – famine, war and poverty.

However, to maintain the present economic upswing and to address poverty sustainably, Africa has to fix its poor and erratic power production and distribution.

read more

African politics, Asymmetrical Warfare, Horn Watch, Kenya Watch

The Fear Industrial complex

Kenyatta, the Father of the Nation?

Kenyatta’s well-cultivated myth of the unquestioned “father of the Nation” was severely tested when on 25th January 1964 African soldiers at the Lanet Barracks mutinied over discrimination by their expatriates over salaries. The African members of the Kenya Rifle broke the armory in Lanet Barracks and demanded a forum with Kenyatta to discuss their grievances. To the Mutineers, Independence heralded a new era where the Africans will determine the African destiny. Further, Kenyatta’s personality as a freedom fighter, just like much of independent African leadership, was built around fierce anti-imperialism rhetoric. And the soldiers thought he will be sympathetic to their plight, instead to resolve the problem sought British’s help, and decision, led to a series of agreements with the British by which the former colonial power agreed to provide military support in the event of any domestic or foreign threat to Kenyatta’s government. For Kenyatta, the attempted mutiny became a perfect bogeyman deployed conveniently against any domestic opponents. Kenyatta elevated the presidency by making it the be all and end all, and effectively placing it above the law. To consolidate his rule, Kenyatta employed five strategies; 1) at the party level; he purged ruling party KANU; off any dissenting voices he considered alternative centers of power. 2) He established a firm grip over the economy through strategic patronage using members of his ethnic group. 3) He deployed the full force of security and the intelligence to address both real and imagined threats. 4) He instrumentalised the liberation struggle by crafting an alternative convenient national discourse and ruling philosophy using his “gift of garb”, especially, the Swahili language. 5) He used the law. This became the template for all the subsequent administration.

Moi, Fuata Nyayo za Kenyatta

Just like Kenyatta used the 1964 Lanet Mutiny to consolidate his power, Moi used the August 1 1982 failed coup to shed his “Mister Nice” image. After the coup, detention and arrest of pro-reform movement became rampant any perceived threat real or imagine was brutally suppressed. And with it, any residual veneer of Moi being different from Kenyatta was shattered. From there on, the state laid down the marker- reform was interpreted as an underhand attempt at state capture. But Mwakenya, a progressive movement largely aligned with the progressive left was undeterred. They started organizing in the urban areas and university halls. But when the state got wind of it, they ruthlessly pursued them. Moi ruled by fiat and fear.

Simultaneously, just like Kenyatta, Moi cultivated an endearingly myth of Baba wa Taifa– Father of the Nation. And a larger than life personality was created around this myth that was celebrated in songs, institutions- schools, hospitals, universities etc, and roads named after him. Moi was always at pain to present himself as a man with his hands on the pulse of the man on the street.

Avenues of challenging the status quo were formally closed through a constitutional change. Even within the ruling party dissent was not tolerated. The party established a severe disciplinary committee to streamline the party’s operations. Unlike Kenyatta who cared little about the political party, to Moi, the party was another avenue of control-a fulcrum around which he consolidated his rule, although it was by no means the only one.  When all avenues were closed, the pro-reform movement went underground and some went into exile.

The West tolerated Moi’s domestic repression because Kenya was in the Western bloc. But the end of the Cold War changed the Western countries calculus regarding Kenya as a vanguard against communism, signaling the end of an era of tolerating Moi’s malfeasance. After years of refusing to allow multiparty despite relentless pressure, arguing, multiparty will deepen ethnic division and violence- a self-fulfilling prophecy because all the subsequent violence were state engineered, Moi begrudgingly accepted the introduction of multiparty. But before accepting multiparty Moi ensured he has created his ruling party, KANU’s exclusive electoral blocks through forceful evictions of potential opposition population in the Rift Valley and coastal Kenya, the two places that became synonymous with electoral violence.

Kenyatta II, the post-Westgate warrior?

Even ardent Kenyatta’s supporters will gladly admit his election was a protest vote against external intervention, especially the ICC. Many admit their vote was not for Kenyatta, but against the ICC. And by joining with William Ruto, Kenyatta coasted to victory on the crest of anti-ICC rhetoric. Kenyatta has always been cast as a child of privilege; his father was Kenya’s first president. And he was not “presidential” enough. But even trenchant anti-Uhuru would be hard pressed not to admire his presidential performance during the Westgate attack. Since the West gate attack Kenyatta’s statesmanship has given way to reflexive criminalization of spaces for dissent. Since his elections campaign sprung from protest against external interference, he has turned the same rage machine domestically on the two institutions that are not in his exclusive ambit- the media and the civil society. But these institutions especially the civil society faced scathing part of his election campaign rhetoric. They were called the evil society; they received external money to prevent his accession to power. In parliament Kenyatta has super majority, which has reduced the opposition into cyclic impotence outburst. Free of parliamentary censure Kenyatta turned on the media and the civil society by proposing laws that will cripple them financially. Part of the new media law proposed special quasi government body that will police the media and impose prohibitive fines are the major thrust of the media bill that was passed 5 December 2013. However, the NGO bill failed to garner the requisite number in parliament. If passed the NGO bill would have placed them under de facto government management and capped international funding for NGOs at 15% of their budgets, notably hindering a key source of cash for many rights groups and anti-corruption watchdogs. This was designed to hit the NGO’s where it matters most. The bill was defeated 83 to 73 votes, with eight lawmakers abstaining, marking the first significant defeat for the ruling Jubilee coalition.

African politics, Kenya Watch, Uncategorized

Ocampo speaks about the Kenya ICC cases

In an extensive interview with Radio Netherlands Worldwide touching on several issues,  former Chief Prosecutor of International Criminal Court (ICC), Moreno Ocampo gave his thoughts on the ongoing Kenyan trials, his legacy and the lesson learned from the Kenyan cases.

On the whole, Ocampo’s assessment on the Kenyan case is less sanguine; well, Kenya is not Sweden, but things are not catastrophic. This doesn’t sound reassuring.

Under his tenure, six Kenyans were identified as the suspects who bear the gravest responsibility for the electoral violence that followed the disputed 2007 presidential elections.

From Ocampo six to Ocampo four

On the 7th and 8th of April 2011 the Pre-Trial Chamber of the ICC convened to hear for the first time in The Hague the six individuals.

The purpose of the conference was to verify the identity of the suspects and to ensure that they have been informed of the crimes they are alleged to have committed, as well as aware of their rights under the Rome Statute, founding treaty of the ICC.

The six Ocampo suspects included Uhuru Kenyatta, William Ruto,  Henry Kosgey,   Joshua Sang,  Francis Muthaura,  Mohammed Hussein Ali,

However, 23 January 2012, charges against Ali and Kosgey were dropped.

Since taking over as the new Chief Prosecutor in 2011, Fatou Bensouda has dropped charges against Francis Muthaura 11 March 2013. 

Witness coaching and witness intimidation

Since the beginning of the trial, incidences of witnesses failing to appear in court has become a concern.

This has led to accusation between the defense and the prosecution.

The prosecution  argues witnesses have been  intimidated from testifying with several of them recanting their earlier testimony.On its part the defense argues the witnesses were coached in the first place. .

For instance, the Kenyatta’s trial was initially slated to begin last week, but it was postponed for a fourth time last month when prosecutors said another witness had withdrawn and requested more time to conduct further investigation. The defense is now arguing that the charges should be dropped all together because the prosecution simply does not have sufficient evidence.

Regardless of the whether the witnesses have been coached or intimidated, the fact that they are withdrawing or failing to appear is an acute commentary on the status of the court’s witness protection scheme.

But when asked about the witnesses, Ocampo provided what might be construed as a pre-emptive plea for forgiveness for job not well done.

Here is an excerpt from the interview

HTK: Could anything have been done to prevent witnesses withdrawing now?

LMO: I don’t think you could do anything to avoid the problem we have now because we protected our witnesses. We transferred them from Kenya to different places. But in some cases, we know families in Kenya were affected or threatened.

THTK: What was the biggest challenge you encountered in the investigation?
LMO: In Kenya, the biggest challenge was to collect the evidence in a free way because the Kenyan government was really worried and there were people in the Kenyan government who were involved in the crimes. We had evidence against Francis Muthaura. The evidence was not enough to go to trial, but we had evidence against him. And Muthaura was one of the most powerful persons in Kenya in those days. So it was very difficult to collect evidence against them. And then when we tried to interview people, the Kenyan government was asking us for a very formal process, where we were going nowhere. When we extracted witnesses from there and we put people outside the country, protection was a big issue because it’s difficult to be protected. Imagine a Kenyan person living in a European country. Some of them became drunkards.

Watch the entire video here The Kenya’s case is a referendum on the court. But whichever way the court  rules it will be damned; if it find the suspects guilty it will be accused of imperialism and race hunting, and if it acquits them it will be accused of failing to successfully prosecute any high level suspect.

Since its formation in 2002, warlord Thomas Lubanga is the only person convicted by the court in 2012.

African politics, Kenya Watch, Uncategorized

Hii ni system ya majambazi

hii system ni ya majambazi,

ma-pastor majambazi,

ministers majambazi,

ma-lawyer majambazi,

na si vijana wa ghetto,


askari wazazi,( Kalamashaka, Mashifta)

One of the often-debated issues in Kenya is why the country is stuck in take off mode despite having all the requisite ingredients. This frustration has further been accentuated since the departure of Daniel Moi in 2002- who in the popular narrative was seen as the symbol of all what has prevented Kenya from being successful such reductionist mindset notwithstanding.

But Post- Moi Kenya has been only mildly successful. The question of how crop idealistic, well-intentioned, worldly and highly educated opposition leaders turned into the mirror image of the Moi’s state in a short period of time has been a source of disappointment for the majority of Kenyans.

Pre- Moi, the lowest common denominator that united the opposition was their desire to remove him from power. That state capture rather than the flowery rhetoric of governance and accountability was just a façade was made clear by the late Minister John Michuki when asked why they stalled on constitution reform; Michuki answered since Moi was no longer in power there is no reason for the constitutional reform. Just like the post-independence leaders who saw no reason to reform the colonial state since beberu left, those opposed to Moi saw no real desire to reform the state.

After the 2002 elections, according to the Gallup International Annual End of Year Survey, Kenyans polled as the most optimistic people on earth.

This was not without a foundation; many Kenyans truly believed the departure of Moi, would herald better things.

But very quickly the enormous goodwill invested in the regime evaporated under the weight of infighting, incessant mega corruption and a sense of entitlement by those in government who felt since they fought Moi, they shouldn’t be asked any questions- they were somewhat above reproach. They indulged in all malfeasance they campaigned against during their opposition days.  This brought with it a distinct feeling of de ja vu.

 Multiparty and its discontent

 In Kenya, the introduction elections after decades of fighting was collectively celebrated. With the introduction of the multiparty elections many opposition parties were registered; and their overarching discourse at least rhetorically was Moi’s departure would herald a new dawn.  Many drank the Kool Aid.  Few if ever interrogated the existence of Moi-ism without Moi; despite his departure, the system he inherited from Kenyatta, and conveniently sustained was too sweet to be dismantled.

Many in civil society who invested tremendous amounts of capital in ensuring Moi’s defeat were surprised to realize their erstwhile “comrades in arms” once in power changed.

Banality of Evil

The New Yorker sent Hannah Arendt to Jerusalem to cover the trial of Otto Adolf Eichmann who was captured in Argentina on May 24, 1960. During the trial, Arendt in her seminal article banality of evil found the feared Nazi Lieutenant Colonel as banal. According to her, “the deeds were monstrous, but the doer … was quite ordinary, commonplace, and neither demonic nor monstrous.” According to her, Eichmann represented an acute thoughtlessness authentic inability to think.

In Kenya’s settings, even those with the best of intention are not immune to the bureaucracy system ya majambazi. Being a creature of routine, our intention and ethics aside, it is incredibly difficult to change a bureaucracy, and instead it changes many into unthinking zombies conditioned to follow “orders from the above.”

Kenya post-Moi is littered with well-intentioned individuals who have since resorted to what Arendt refers to, “clichés, stock phrases, adherence to conventional, standardized codes of expression” in defending their explicitly indefensible position.

Professor Kivutha Kibwana’s during his opposition days was one of the most respected reform leaders. He was one of the fiercest critics of the Kenya African National Union (KANU) regime. For his belief he was beaten multiple times for leading a demonstration for constitutional reform (he wasn’t the only one), images of him beaten up during protests littered newspapers. When he joined the National Alliance Rainbow Coalition (NARC)  government after Moi left, the law professor was indistinguishable from the people he was fighting when he was in the opposition. In fact he sounded more like a member of KANU than the redoubtable former KANU Secretary General Joseph Kamotho.

Kivutha’s case is a perfect illustration of “it’s the system stupid.” Once you are in the system, one is socialized to stay within its limitation, and hardly want to rock it. Overtime, the “evil” of the system cease to be “evil” and instead becomes routine and the way of life.

The Kenyatta campaign was built on the buzz of youth and digital excitement, however recent appointments of old familiar faces have jerked plenty of jubilant into planet reality. Few whispers have started emerging from the hardcore jubilee supporters, who claim this is not what we voted for. The reality is once elected politicians become victims of the establishment; regardless of the anti-establishment platform they run their election campaigns. If in doubt, just look at the chief hope-monger, the President of the United States, Barack Obama.

African politics, Devolution, Kenya Watch, Uncategorized

Alfred Keter, Code switching and politics of sharing/eating the national cake

Alfred Keter, the first time Member of Parliament for Nandi Hills has become something of a lightning rod for the Jubilee government. His insistence the Ruto side of the coalition received a raw deal has animated both pro and anti-Jubilee supporters.

To the Jubilee supporters, Keter is Odinga’s agent – the arch-enemy bent on capitalizing on Jubilee’s weakness real or imagined.

To the anti-Jubilee brigade, Keter is the new “prophet” – confirming the myth the Kikuyu are untrustworthy partners, and sooner rather than latter what befell Odinga would befall Ruto.

However, both pro- anti Jubilee argument only provides a half analytical framework in understanding the Jubilee government’s crisis. A useful way is to transcend the anti-pro dichotomy and have a third way of looking at the situation.


In post-colonial Africa state can be divided into the formal and informal, and we conveniently swing between these two universes depending on the circumstances.  During the day we all suited up and transact most of our business in “English” language, in the evening and on weekend’s we switch to the “mother tongue” where transactions are conducted without any formal agreement. This code switching- from formal to informal is a permanent and effortless state of mind.

Binyavanga Wainaina in his essay “Inventing a City Nairobi” writes, “In order to negotiate our complex lives, Nairobi people have learned to have dual personalities. We move from one language to another, from one identity to another, navigating different worlds, some of which never meet”.  But Wainaina’s Nairobi story is by no means unique to Nairobi; it is a reality in most post- colonial African states.

In rebuking the elites convenient code switching the Chief Justice Willy Mutunga in a speech at Sterehe Boys center said, “We have an elite that ‘speaks in tongues’ – civil in the formal civic space, but quite native in motive, values, ambition, and operation. An elite that is as vernacular as the next opportunity permits, but one which cloaks its irredeemable attraction to the ‘natal centre’ with sophisticated gadgetry and technology talk”. He added, “Elitism that is ephemerally modern but innately nativist”

By transcending the pro-anti divide one achieves a better understanding the demands Keter is making on the Kenyatta administration regarding the Kalenjin community’s perceived “fair share” as a critical “shareholder”.

Uhuru and KenyattaUhuru Kenyatta

Keter said, “We are holding the horns of the cow while others are milking it,”

As a member of parliament Keter knows better than anyone that under the new constitution, patronage politics of rewarding the political supporters notwithstanding, theoretically appointment to public position is largely based on merit and qualifications.  But when making those demands Keter is abstracting himself from the formal realm and locate himself firmly in the informal universe.

Keter by no means inaugurated this new “sub-genre”, it is a well wrought path; every so often, individual public official run to their communities when they are accused of for instance corruption at the national level- they make an individual transgression communal. They rally their community tapping into the well established victim mentality, we are haunted by ethnic community X and Y. The merit of the accusation in this realm is immaterial, and politicians and the public will advocate for the official to be pardoned.

Keter in his mind feel like he’s rendering a public service to his community since they overwhelmingly voted for Kenyatta, and they are de facto a critical stakeholder in Kenya Inc.

But this raises two important governance issues.

One, this posture poses the question regarding the minorities who will be able to marshal votes to trigger such calls for 50-50 power/job sharing demands. There is no chance the Boranas, Garres, Dasanach, Ormas, Sanyu can reach the threshold of asking for equal treatment by virtue of the votes. But even more importantly, how about the Luo’s, Luhya’s and Kamba’s who voted for Odinga?

But to the Kalenjins what Keter is doing in noble, standing up for his community’s rights. But by ennobling such a blatant implicit marginalization of other communities we have been desensitized to the rigorous constitutional requirements, but the “Keter’s’ entitlement is not without a foundation, it is even applauded and pushed up from the bottom by the communities.

Two, the emerging schism in the jubilee administration also reveals an acute under supply of trust after winning election through fickle pre-election coalition whose exclusive raison d’etre is winning an election.  However, the cost of short- gun marriage anchored in political expediency is all to clear as demonstrated by the 2007-2008 whose seeds were planted by president Kibaki’s failure to honor the pre-election Memorandum of Understanding he signed with Odinga.

Arguably, this will not be the first time a pre-election power sharing arrangement based on 50-50 powers and job-sharing end up being a mkate nusu. But the implication is if the politicians cannot keep their promises to each other, how about to the voters?; what are the chances that all the glossy manifestos, poetic rousing speeches and wonderful policy proposals are just that- hot air? Talk is cheap.

The signs are too visible, Kenyatta- Ruto team called themselves the dynamic- digital duo, whose slogan was kusema na Kutenda- roughly translated, saying and doing, and their campaign was youth centered.  But the recent appointment in the parastatals heads was nothing but youth, some of the appointee served in the Kenyatta I administration. For a perspective, since Kenyatta died in 1978, the United States have had 6 presidents, and a fair amount of them served two terms.

The answer to having a fully functioning democracy is neither doing away with the informality- doing away with one will not automatically trigger the other, but it is finding a sweet equilibrium between the two state of play, and that requires a great deal of work from the citizens as well as the leadership.


The past few months have left the East African Community (EAC) in a state of flux following the emergence of the Coalition of the Willing (CoW) that includes Kenya, Rwanda and Uganda at the exclusion of Tanzania– the founding member and the country where also the EAC’s headquarter is located. As a counter measure, Tanzania announced it would form a mini- community that constitutes Tanzania, Burundi, and Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). This move and counter-move brings back a distinct feeling of dejavu – reminding us of when the East African Community collapsed in 1977 a decade after its formation.

The first EAC collapsed in the heat of the raging Cold War. Kenya was seen as a spoiler for its strong pro- capitalist Western bloc posture while Tanzania was firmly in the Eastern block. The East- West boiled over when Tanzania’s president Julius Nyerere remarked, “Kenya is a man eats man society”, to which the then Kenyan Attorney General Charles Njonjo replied, “Tanzania is a man eat nothing society”.

Eventually, relations between Kenya and Tanzania were so frayed, the union collapsed. Because most of the union’s headquarters and assets were in Nairobi, Kenya took them over, something that up to the current date animates other EAC members especially Tanzania who feels Kenya benefitted from the collapse of the EAC.

Additionally, Tanzanians and Ugandans believe a full fledged EAC will eventually help Kenya, at their expense, because, as they argue Kenyans are “aggressive”. They reckon Kenyans will take over their jobs, businesses and land once the full union is consummated.

The Trigger: Rwanda, too sensitive to be criticized?

Democratic Republic of Congo is Rwanda and Uganda’s playing field- they have either invaded it multiple times or supported various proxies to advance their agenda. Therefore, Tanzania’s suggestion that Kigali should negotiate with the FDLR genocidaire militia who went into DRC after their overthrow in Rwanda in 1994 was not seen favorably. For a start, it appears Tanzania is interfering in Uganda and Rwanda’s “sphere of influence”. Tanzania’s comment brought a spotlight to the DRC, something Kampala and Kigali would rather ignore because such a spotlight will unwittingly bring Uganda and Rwanda’s role in DRC under the regional and the international radar.

More particularly, Rwanda feels Tanzania doesn’t appreciate Kigali’s firm position- they will never negotiate with the genocaidaires. But Tanzania went beyond just suggesting negotiation, under the new United Nation’s the Force Intervention Brigade (FIB), Tanzania moved a step further in addressing the DRC’S conflict by supplying troops to disarm the recent reincarnation of the ever mutating rebel movement landscape, the M23. Since the Tanzania-led intervention, the M23, which until recently with the support of Rwanda has been overrunning government forces, has been brought to the negotiating table. The group recently signed an agreement with the DRC government during Kenya’s 50 years of independence celebration.

Museveni’s grand political agenda as East Africa’s elder statesman

Uhuru Kenyatta has more similarities with Jakaya Kikwete than Paul Kagame and Yoweri Museveni; President Kagame and Museveni both initially came to power through a rebel movement as opposed to Kenyatta and Jakaya Kikwete who came to power through elections. Additionally, both Rwanda and Uganda are landlocked compared to Kenya and Tanzania who both have ports. In terms of age also, Kenyatta is closer to Kikwete than the other two. In the region, however, Museveni is the longest serving president beating the previous record holder Kenya’s Daniel Moi. Therefore, he subconsciously reckons to be seen as such, and by extension harbors the ambition of being the statesman.

The East African charter envisions ultimately the creation of a political federation, and Museveni sees himself as the person to be the president of East Africa. But that is a long shot because even domestically, Museveni’s legitimacy is slowly eroding.

Dar-es Salam’s ambition to upstage Mombasa port?

Of the EAC countries, only Kenya and Tanzania have seaports.

The port of Mombasa is one of the factors that have made the country a regional economic powerhouse. That could change with Tanzania building a mega port in Bagamoyo, north of Dar Es Salaam through a Chinese financed $10 Billion project. As part of the new port, new roads and railroads that connect to existing road and railroad networks will undergo upgrades.

When finalized, the new port will handle 20 million cargo containers a year compared to the present capacity of Dar es Salaam’ s of 800,000 containers a year. This new project will be a game changer in the regional economic dynamics and will significantly alter Dar leverage. But Kenya should also use this as an opportunity to increase efficiency, reduce corruption and cargo clearing time at the port of Mombasa that is increasing the cost of doing business in Kenya.

New efforts at upgrading the Mombasa port while welcomed, have been long over due, and if Kenya wants to retain its competitive edge, the Bagamoyo port is a real wake up call. But in the broader sense such competition and the slew of massive Chinese funded infrastructure projects in the region is welcomed, if well procured and implemented. In the grand scheme of things, the core of EAC is all about expanding economic opportunities rather than gratuitous quarrels.

Challenges and opportunities

The latest tensions in the EAC, while challenging, could also be an opportunity for the community to thrash out significant divergent points of view. But more remarkable is that the latest disagreements have nothing to do with the EAC per se, but the intractable conflict in the DRC. However, in the long term, EAC leaders will be well served not to throw the baby out with the bath water, because the EAC has tremendous opportunity and potential to transform the region and beyond. With the possible addition of Ethiopia, and maybe Somalia the EAC could prove to be a massive economic driver, and establish itself as the premier economic bloc in Africa.

However, the latest European Union meltdown provides a cautionary tale regarding rushed monetary and political unions. Therefore, the leaders should guard against a rushed monetary union and political federation. Further, the leaders will be well served to solve any emerging disagreement through the community’s existing mechanism rather than through the press, because that would only exacerbate the situation. Further, part of that solution should include Tanzania in the East African Commission.