Museveni – Why Africa Must Unite Politically

Part XV of these series is the third segment of a speech delivered in Kampala on July 10, 1998.

In the previous segments, Museveni explained the factors that he says led to the stagnation of Africa, which, some 500 years ago, was at the same level of development as Europe. In the third segment, Museveni explains four solutions to Africa’s development questions.

Having seen the four major problems that have led Africa to mark time (stagnate), let us see what can be done. Of course, we should rectify these weaknesses.

We should export processed and finished goods i.e. we should not export cotton but textiles we should not export hides and skins, but leather goods we should not export timber but furniture and we should not export copper but finished copper goods. We should integrate our economies through our regional and continental organisations. We should strive for genuine overall independence.

Political unification:

However, in this paper I will only concentrate on integration and political unification. By now the idea of economic integration is accepted, at least, in theory. I suspect the idea of economic integration gained currency in Africa because there was already the example of the EEC in Europe. I cannot imagine the screams of ‘heresy’ that would have been hurled at Africa if it had been us to initiate the idea of integrating the economies to independent states of Africa.

It is always much easier and acceptable for the Africans to follow the beaten track. In my opinion, however, economic integration is not enough. Why? The greatest single factor why economic integration cannot take place in a context of political fragmentation is lack of a political superstructure necessary for the integration process. Given the present economically weak states, there is no single African state that can impose discipline on the others by economic or other forms of pressure.

The USA maintains discipline among the Western countries and domination of the whole world by virtue of its economic might, semi-monopoly over technological aancement and, of course, military might. The USA has got a huge market, with great purchasing power, access to which is a privilege that the countries of the world must pay for in the coinage of loyalty to the USA, to its ideas and practices and by serving of American interests in one way or another. American hi-tech can be denied to those not towing the line.

Even then it is not always easy for America to maintain cohesion among its allies especially in matters of the economy. USA has, to-date failed to persuade EU to lift protectionism on agriculture. Hence, the Uruguay Round was stuck on that vital issue for many years. In the end only a weak compromise emerged. Japan does not always obey the commands from Washington, in spite of Washington’s overwhelming power in all fields: political, economic, military and scientific.

Who, then, can play the head prefect role, a la USA, in the African context if we maintain the present political fragmentation but with new protestations about economic integration”? I can see none. This is the shortest argument for political integration.

After all, the greatest market in the world, that of the USA, was a consequence of the political union of independent states, one of which, Texas, is as big as Nigeria. The whole world is currently scrambling for the USA market because the political action of unity by the wise men of that time created that market. Europe, which maintained political fragmentation for much longer, is in second place.

Even then, it has gained this position because it had the belated wisdom to work for political-economic union. European integration is on the march and has reversed European decline vis a viz the USA. Therefore, in the case of African states, which do not have a political-economic centre of gravity, political unification is the only safe roof under which economic integration can take place.

However, this is not the only reason for political union. That is to say that the need to provide a political roof to the economic integration process is not the only reason in favour of political union as opposed to the present and ad hoc gathering of heads of state and government in the form of PTA Authority, IGAD Authority, the Kagera Basin Organisation Authority, ECOWAS Authority, or indeed the annual OAU Heads Summit.

These gatherings are thoroughly ad hoc and lack seriousness and concentration, their symbolic and, sometimes, marginal economic benefits notwithstanding. Apart from this major reason of economic integration, there are three other reasons:

i) A union of Central and Eastern Africa states, on account of its greater potential, commands more respect from the world. This is not a small aantage when it comes to negotiations and other forms of interaction with other countries and groups in the world. The way the big powers treat India, Brazil or Nigeria, in spite of their being third world countries, is not the same way they treat Burundi. To take one example, an investor would be more attracted to invest in a united East Africa than in just Uganda because of the bigger market the former offers.

ii) A wider union of African states, apart from the bigger internal market, would also command more resources, human and natural.

Uganda is well-endowed with agriculture, fisheries, forests, mineral and hydro power resources. Along the Uganda Nile section we can, eventually, generate 4,000 megawatts of electricity. There is now a proven presence in Uganda of 230 million tonnes of phosphate ore, and 100 million tonnes of iron ore not to forget gold, copper, cobalt, uranium, rubies, marble, limestone and other minerals – all these in addition to the great agricultural and tourist potential.

Uganda’s disaantages:

However, Uganda does not have coal nor does Uganda have access to the sea. As we all know, these are big disaantages. This is where a wider union comes in to introduce complementarity of natural resources. Quite often, your neighbour will have what you lack.

This is why the United States of America is the greatest country on earth today – although it is among the youngest nations, historically speaking. Egypt, Greece and Ethiopia are much older than the United States, but they are much weaker. One of the reasons is that Egypt has remained Egypt, while the American immigrants, who had fled the narrow-mindedness, bigotry, reactionary opposition to science and religious persecution in Europe, were less imprisoned by such anachronistic ideas and were able to create a truly mighty multi-religious state which came to dominate the world.

However, there is no denying that America is the greatest power in the world, mainly, because it was somewhat founded on more progressive ideas of tolerance, rationalism and the consequent union of peoples and a wider spectrum of natural resources. Of course, the Red Indians had to disappear. But that is the fate of those who do not keep up with the times. If USA could eschew imperialistic ambitions and banish racism within her borders, she could be a very g power for many centuries.

The Red Indians were still living in tribal organisations when they were faced by those people who had no regard for tribes and who were not fettered by religious prejudices because that is what they fled from in Europe. Their religion was profit – the difference between the cost of production and the market price.

One may say this was inhumanly rationalist and utilitarian. However, it was a sword that cut through the irrational feudalism of Europe, from where they fled, the primitive tribal organisation or the Red Indians and that of the Africans who could not resist their enslavement. The law of nature has always dictated that those who are weak are enslaved.

A people cannot survive by the charity of an “organisation for the prevention of cruelty to weak humans” as if they are pets such as dogs, cats and parrots. A people ought to guarantee their own security along with that of their allies. The fact that the Africans and the Red Indians could not guarantee their own security, not to mention independence, was partly their fault, especially the fault of their leaders.

The pity is that the lesson of the past has not been internalised. People in Africa are still talking of clans and tribes as if they are static fixtures and in spite of their historic failures to guarantee Africa’s sovereignty since 500 years ago.

iii) Such a union would also command more defence potential to guard African interests against encroachments by foreigners. The present small African states, individually, do not possess much defence capacity. There are also other factors that further weaken the African states. One of them is the concept of army building and organisation. However, even with better organisation, it is not easy for the present states to have adequate armed forces with all the branches: land, air, rocket and naval forces.

There is a misconception that Africa spends a lot on arms. This is not true. What Africa spends appears a lot in relation to their small gross domestic products but not in comparative terms with other states in the world. Yet, they have got the same defence obligations like other countries as far as defending and maintaining internal peace are concerned. Who is supposed to look after these defence obligations? Is Africa to seek defence patronage from outside?

In whose interest will that patronage be, if available at all? Such weak defence potential accounted for the arrogance of the South African regime vis-a-vis Africa in the past. The bloody nose they got in Angola was partly due to the Cuban troops subsidised by Moscow at that time. Otherwise, the South African regime had been rampaging throughout southern Africa as a bull in a China shop with little resistance.

Foreign supplies:

Even when we defeated the Portuguese and Ian Smith in the 1960s and 1970s, it was due, material-wise, to the supplies from USSR and China. Of course, African freedom fighters did the fighting. But so did they in the Maji Maji rebellion, in the Shona and Ndebele rebellions of 1890s and in the Zulu wars.

They then lost because of outmoded concepts of organisation and poor weaponry. The communist contribution to African freedom in the 1960s and 1990s should, therefore, not be underestimated. It is, therefore, clear that Africa does not guarantee its security and its influence and credibility is negligible although its potential is great.

This would change if there was a union of African states. These are the reasons that necessitate unity now. However, we should not forget that there is already basic unity or linkages in Africa created by our ancestors in the past. There are linguistic and cultural homogeneities going back centuries.

If one takes the Luo language spoken by the Nilotic peoples of the Sudan, Uganda, Kenya, Tanzania, some parts of Ethiopia and Zaire, one will discover that it is a multi-national language. It is spoken by the Dinkas, Shilluk, Nuer and Acholis in the Sudan. In Uganda, it is spoken by the Alur, Acholi, Langi and Jopadholas in Kenya, it is spoken by the Jaluo who extend into Tanzania.

The Bantu languages are spoken throughout the countries of Central, Eastern and Southern Africa. Approximately, 200 million people speak Bantu languages. Swahili, which is a hybrid of Bantu languages and Arabic, is spoken in East Africa, Zaire, Rwanda, Burundi and northern Mozambique.

Therefore, the myth that Africa is peopled by disparate tribes with incurable tribal differences is an invention of the colonialists that is amplified by the African reactionaries. There is, in fact, great homogeneity and many linkages in Africa. We have just illustrated the linguistic homogeneity and linkages.

Besides, we should not forget the historical linkages among the African peoples. Some of the Bantu kingdoms in Uganda had Luo-speaking kings at certain times. Buganda and Bunyoro are the most prominent examples. Some other kingdoms had Hamitic kings, possibly originating from the ancient kingdoms of the Sudan and Ethiopia.

Principal among these were Ankole, Karagwe, Rwanda, Burundi, Bukoba, Bujinja (Biharamulo and Sengerema). Busubi (Kahama), Buha (Kasulu, Kibondo, and Kigoma) and some kingdoms in Zaire (Mboga – which was part of Bunyoro, Rutshuru etc).

There were also common religions. The Bachwezi culture affected Buganda, Bunyoro, Ankole, Busoga, Bugweri, Rwanda, Karagwe, Buhaya (Bukoba), Bujinja and beyond. Other cultural traits such as circumcision, clitoridectomy, dances, etc., cut across tribes.

Common history:

Therefore, it is clear that there are reasons for unity because of present-day economic, political and defence imperatives as well as for reasons of language culture and a common history. Moreover, one should not forget the negative common history of having been plundered by the slave trade, subjugated by colonialism and the fact that we are still semi-independent on account of under-development and economic dependence.

Uganda, however, cannot talk of pan-African unity without consolidating its own unity. There are voices that still talk of tribalism. Nevertheless, there is nobody who talks of breaking up Uganda’s unity. Even the traditionalists in Buganda want a role in a modern Uganda. They think that the best way to have a role is to reconstitute, in some way, some of the pre-colonial entities.

Some elements among the traditionalists are genuinely concerned that our culture is getting lost lock, stock and barrel. The aspirations of these groups are not necessarily in conflict with our higher aspirations for wider African unity. The National Resistance Movement has always been ready to find convenient formulae to accommodate the legitimate aspirations of these groups. This can easily be done without militating against the interests of the unity of Uganda achieved so far or those of our democratic institutions.

In any case, the pre-colonial monarchs of Uganda were all for uniting the tribes of Uganda and beyond. Buganda, Bunyoro or Ankole were not tribal states. They were multi-tribal states. In Buganda one would find: Baganda, Bassesse, Bavuma and Banabuddu. Later on Baruuli, Banyala, Banyankore, Bakooki and Banyoro were added. In Bunyoro, you find: Banyoro, Batooro, Bahuma, Basongora, Batuku, Bakonzo, Bamba Bachope, Alur (Baleega), Baruuli and Basoga. Earlier on, Banabuddu, Bakooki, Bahaya, Banyankore, Banyaarwanda and Acholi had been brought under some degree of Bunyoro control, at least, for brief periods.

All the traditional kings were after conquest. That is why they were called Luwangula (the Conqueror), Rubambansi (the controller of the world) and so on. They were after conquest to control resources – human and material. Therefore, traditionalists who preach tribalism and fragmentation of Africa are false traditionalists.

Traditionalism in Africa has never been fragmentationist. It has always been integrationist but through conquest. It is the conquest idea that we need to eliminate. We should aim at integration through negotiations and discussions. Moreover, integration in the past was for the interest of the chiefs. Integration now should be in the interests of the middle class, the peasants and the working class. In other words, the integration we are talking about is for wider social interests.

Therefore, the traditionalists in Buganda have got a point to some extent: the Ugandans have got something to be proud of – a relatively sophisticated administration long before the Europeans came here. We had managed to unite a large number of clans under tribal states. In some cases, the states were supra-tribal such as in Bunyoro, Ankole and Buganda.

Therefore, in terms of symbolism, it is not a negative idea to look for ways of preserving aspects of our pre-colonial systems. I have no problem with the aspirations of the traditionalists as long as they do not inhibit the greater aspirations of national unity, pan-Africanism and democracy. If the aspirations of traditionalists do not interfere with democracy and modern administration, we can strike a deal with them.

This would consolidate unity within Uganda and she would then be a reliable partner in a wider search for pan-African unity. In the past, Uganda was an obstacle to the unity of East Africa because of her own internal disunity.

However, it is imperative that we do not accept exaggerated claims of traditionalists. The pre-colonial states that the Europeans found here were really mini-states, micro-states. They were successors to the bigger Batembuzi, Bachwezi and Banyoro-Babito states which had been much larger, more viable and with greater potential.

The larger pan-Ugandan (and beyond) states had been broken up because of greed and myopia of the traditional rulers as well as, probably, the limited scope of their economy – depending, mainly, on cattle. It was also because of small populations and poor communications already alluded to.

Lack of mobility:

As already stated, the lack of mobility of the central authorities made this possible. The Bito dynasty had split, thereby separating Buganda from Bunyoro. The Bito princes had, themselves, earlier broken up the large Bachwezi state. The Bachwezi rulers had destroyed the Batembuzi-controlled large state.

The Mpororo state (comprising parts of present-day Mbarara and Bushenyi districts, the whole of Rukungiri district, large parts of Kabale district and the whole Mutara region of Rwanda), which itself was one of the mini-successor states to the large Bachwezi state, was further fragmented by the useless princes into the following mini-states: Mutara (Bagina), Ruhaama (Beene-Rukari and Beene-Kahaya), Kajara (Beene-Kihondwa), parts of Kabale (Beene-Rugambagye), Igara and Ruhinda (Beene-Mafundo), Rujumbura and Rubabo (Beene-Kirenzi), Kinkiizi (Beene-Kanyaamuheebe) and parts of Rwampara (Beene-Rukaari).

Of course, maybe another factor that necessitated the disintegration of these states was the relative abundance of natural resources and the very small populations. Therefore, there was no great urge for one area to conquer and control another area because each area was self-sufficient resource-wise: water, timber and agricultural land. In this context we are talking of self-sufficiency but in terms of primitive existence.

However, certain items like cattle and salt were not so ubiquitous. Occasionally, there would be wars about these – especially cattle. Otherwise, on account of abundant resources, there was no great urge for the feudal lords to conquer others and sustain control, their exaggerated praise titles notwithstanding.

Therefore, when Kaboyo, son of Kyebambe Nyamutukura, declared Tooro independent from Bunyoro, in 1830, the father told his armies not to bother him. It was not until the ascending to the throne of Kabarega, who was more vigorous, that Tooro was re-conquered by Bunyoro, only to be re-separated by the Europeans.

Therefore, the pre-colonial states from which the traditionalists draw so much inspiration were not that great. The litmus paper test for the viability of these states is the fact that they were so easily conquered by the Europeans. When Mwanga realised his folly and tried to unite with Kabarega, it was too late. Both of them were taken into captivity.

Mwanga died there while Kabarega died on his way back, at Jinja, in 1923. Seychelles was their place of exile. Not only were these states ineffective in defending African sovereignty, but they were actually used against one another to consolidate colonial rule. Baganda collaborator chiefs (Kaggwa, Kakungulu and others) were used against Bunyoro, Busoga, Bukedi, Bugisu, and Teso.

Owing to rendering such invaluable services to colonialism, the Baganda collaborator chiefs, who had earlier betrayed their Kabaka (Mwanga), were given large Bunyoro territories (“lost counties”) and the Ankole counties of Kabula and parts of Mawogola.

Besides, these collaborator chiefs were given large tracts of personal lands as “Mailo-land”, thereby transforming the peasants who were living on these lands into serfs and overthrowing the clan-land system. These micro-states were, therefore, allowing themselves to be used in the colonial game: use Buganda to destroy Bunyoro and then use the north to destroy Buganda, thereby ensuring that the Uganda entity will remain subservient to foreign interests and at loggerheads within itself.

Therefore, not only were these micro-states inadequate to defend African sovereignty, but they contained elements who were only too ready to be used by the colonising powers to extinguish their own sovereignty and that of others. If you contrast this ignominious capitulation by the pre-colonial Uganda states in the face of foreign domination to the behaviour of Japan and China, you will see a big difference.

Although both Japan and China were backward technologically, they resisted and defeated all attempts to colonise them. The fact that they had achieved a higher degree of centralisation and commanded more human and natural resources must have played a leading role in enabling the two to defend their sovereignty.

On our continent, it is important to remember the role of Ethiopia. The Ethiopians defeated the Italians at Adowa in 1896 at the very moment the micro-states in Uganda, whose apologists peddle the lie that the British were “invited” by Mutesa,

were grovelling in the dust before British colonialism or were mounting ineffective resistance.

Mutesa would have accepted an offer of alliance from any of the European powers but not capitulation and subjugation. He would, however, have been conquered all the same unless the feudal kings of Uganda acted in concert and in time.

Source : The Observer