Monday, July 21, 2008



By Jerry Okungu
Dar es Salaam, Tanzania
July 21, 2008

Temporarily based in Dar es Salaam, I have a good grasp of the political happenings in the SADC countries as well as the war drums in the Horn of Africa. Based on these happenings, I wonder at times whether our lofty dreams of an East African regional integration, let alone the realization of the African Union Government is possible in my lifetime!

Sometimes when I go through the literatures of the founding fathers of the OAU in the 1960s, I wonder why we have never got it right all these years. However, on start reading between the lines, I begin to see the fundamental ideological and methodological differences that existed between the founding fathers at the time. Their suspicions of one another culminated in open verbal exchanges that resulted in each leader retreating to defend their territorial turfs. What this undesirable scenario meant was that as a team, they failed to focus on the collective agenda the continent.

The 1960s were the times the continent was in turmoil following coups after coups. Civilian governments were toppled one after another. If wasn’t Somalia, it was Nigeria, Ghana, Togo or Uganda. If it wasn’t the overthrow of Emperor Haile Selassie in Ethiopia, despots like Bokassa, Doe or Idi Amin was over-running a civilian government somewhere in Africa. Yet the OAU leaders never raised a finger to denounce senseless violent military coups. The doctrine of non-interference in the internal affairs of member states was religiously adhered to.

As these atrocities escalated, the OAU that was initially a club of elected gentlemen suddenly turned into a club of military generals. The men in uniform had taken over the continent and as usual, whether it was Gowon, Rawlings or Doe; they had one thing in common. They lacked vision for Africa and their own countries. The used the gun to suppress their people for selfish reasons.

Fifty years later, the continent is today going through another round of turmoil. If the war is not raging in Somalia, Eritreans and Ethiopians are permanently on red alert training their missiles on one another.

If Omer El Bashir is not busy butchering his citizens in Darfur in Sudan, the Lord’s Resistance Army of Joseph Kony is busy amputating the limbs of ordinary civilians in Northern Uganda. Need we remind anybody of the near holocaust in Rwanda fifteen years ago and the unending civil strife in neighboring Burundi and the DRC?
Recent events in Kenya, South Africa and Zimbabwe continue to affirm that internal democracies in our regain are still a mirage. As Kenya burnt in the early part of this year, South Africa was at hand to mediate the political turmoil that a regime bent on remaining in power had visited on Kenya. What our brothers in the South did not know was that down the road three months later, South Africa would go up in smoke due to xenophobia.

Since March 2008, the focus has been on Zimbabwe whose ancient grandfather leader has refused to groom a successor. With inflation at 2,000,000 % and a currency unit of Z$ 100 billion, Mugabe is still calling himself the president of an African country! This is the tragedy of being an African living in Africa.

Our present leaders have not learnt anything from the founding fathers of the continent. If Nyerere’s nationalization of private property did not empower indigenous Tanzanians economically, Amin’s expulsion of Asians from Uganda at the same time only helped to impoverish black Ugandans more. They inherited the wealth they were ill- prepared to sustain.

Blind nationalization like the one Nyerere applied in Tanzania in the early 1970s was akin to the disastrous Kenyatta Africanization of foreign businesses in the Central Business District of Nairobi. The very beneficiaries of the Kenyatta regime mostly the regime’s homeboys later connived with the same foreigners and sold back the businesses for a song.

If Africa united under a federal government with a federal army, we would today not have silly wars like those taking in Uganda, Sudan and Somalia. We would not have visionless leaders like Mugabe being part of a federal government. Land clashes in Kenya with attendant election frauds prevalent in Africa would not take place with impunity.

This continent cries loud for drastic change. That change has to take place now; not tomorrow!