An East African renaissance? I don’t think so...
The political discourse of our East African leaders is that Africa is on the rise and the world should take note of a resurgent continent. This has been the new voice of African leaders and a pointer to the revival of the Pan-African era, whereby African leaders are constantly become increasingly dependent on the extent to which it is prepared to be the West's armed pointing for the need for Africans to look for African solutions to African problems. They would often rail at their “patronising” relationship with their ex-colonial masters who they claim are keen further exert their influence on the continent. This has been witnessed by the increasingly angry rhetoric against the International Criminal Court (ICC).
Uganda is a key ally of the Western powers. It plays a critical role in the affairs in the Horn and the Great Lakes region. It is also crucial to note that the country has discovered oil reserves that major powers are keen to exploit. "Over the past two decades, the survivability of the Kampala regime has fireman in the region. For this, the West happily overlooks the regimes spectacular human-rights and other failures" (Serumga, 2014).
This "special relationship" was severely tested when Uganda was on the verge of implementing strict laws that would make homosexuality punishable by death. Several donors expressed their disproval with laws claiming they were a gross violation of human rights. President Museveni, under pressure, sent the law back to parliament and claiming that homosexuality was a "disease but there were other ways to deal with it." In his speech, Museveni exuded bravado and condemnation of homosexuality terming it as "evil" but the rejection spoke volumes about who really influences policy making in these "renaissance countries." The concept of whether anti-homosexuality laws violate human rights has become a key contentious issue in Africa-Western relations; while the West have largely come out in support of gay rights, most African countries are opposed to legalising same sex relations.
Tanzania, like Ethiopia, has witnessed double-digit economic growth. There is a great buzz in global business circles about the country’s resources (diamonds are being mined). The country enjoys close economic ties with the US, much to the chagrin of the “Coalition of the willing” (Kenya, Uganda and Rwanda). President Barrack Obama cemented the solid ties when he chose Tanzania instead of Kenya, the birthplace of his father, on his maiden visit to East Africa. It certainly has great economic potential but it must deal with a number of challenges including tackling endemic corruption.
South Sudan is the latest country in turmoil. The current standoff between President Salva Kiir and his nemesis, Riek Machar, threaten to plunge the country into civil war. The international community is greatly disappointed by the turn of events, given that after the creation of South Sudan in 2011 there were great expectations that this would lead to peace for the long marginalised South Sudanese. Uganda has boldly sent its troops to bolster the Kiir administration. The East African region, through the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD), is brokering peace talks in Addis aiming at resolving the conflict before it further worsens. This is a further statement of African solutions to African problems, a course of action acknowledged by international analysts.
No country in the region has witnessed the intricacies of charting its own destiny as Kenya. The country came out of a highly polarised yet positively peaceful election. The country is at a crossroads given the predicament that its two top leaders face at the ICC. There have been frantic diplomatic efforts by the Kenyan government to have the international community drop the cases. There is a real risk that the traditionally cordial ties Kenya enjoys with the west could seriously deteriorate if Kenya does not cooperate with the ICC. The country's foreign policy was non-alignment but with favourable ties with the west. The Jubilee government has since embarked on strengthening ties with China and the recent engagements with African leaders have seen a revival of Pan-Africanism. Uganda's President Yoweri Museveni has been a vociferous supporter of the President and the Deputy President terming the ICC as a tool of neo-colonialism.
In conclusion, the East African region has been buoyed by good economic growth and increased regional and political integration that could see the region drastically alter its prospects. However, respective countries need to sort their own problems, security foremost, and sort their systems of governance so that quality of its citizen's lives can also improve. Whilst acknowledging the sovereignty of the East African countries’, the leaders have to be smart in recognising that Western powers still hold considerable influence in their respective countries.
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