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The Forum > Article Comments > Federation in East Africa > Comments

Federation in East Africa : Comments

By Graham Cooke, published 24/4/2006

There is a gap in Australia's foreign relations: Africa is simply not on our radar, but it should be.

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An interesting article, Graham. I'm all in favour of Australia engaging in a more positive manner with our fellow Commonwealth countries. We have not done anywhere near as much as we could have to help the people of Zimbabwe, for example. The contrast between the willingness to enforce “regime change” in Iraq and the utter failure to do anything in Zim is sickening. (Both extremes being wrong.)

I'm most intrigued by your advocacy of an East African Federation of Kenya, Tanzania and Uganda, especially with 2015 as a target date. Given that their national leaders have gone to great lengths since independence to build up a sense of Kenyan, Tanzanian or Ugandan identity, how easy do you think it would be to break those down and blend them into a larger East African identity?

By means of comparison, Australia and New Zealand would seem to be far more similar: could we get used to a shared identity? We have many of the same cultural roots, virtually identical institutions, national economies that are almost perfectly integrated – far more than the EU, for example –, and even a national holiday (ANZAC Day) that includes the name of both countries. I doubt that any other pair of nations on the planet can boast that.

If there is a case for federation in East Africa, it seems to me that there is an even stronger one for taking the step to create a Commonwealth of Australia and New Zealand. If federation is feasible and advantageous for Kenya, Tanzania and Uganda, isn’t it also feasible and advantageous for us? I tend to think that it is, but I don’t hear many people talking about it.

Given that 2015 will be the 100th anniversary of Gallipoli, it would seem to make a pretty good date to aim for.
Posted by Ian, Monday, 24 April 2006 12:55:06 PM
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When we started talking about federation in the late 1800s, we invited NZ to join in. They didn't want a bar of it.

But on the topic of Australia's role in the developing world, Africa seems like a pretty crazy choice. We are trying, as a nation, to establish our role in two regions - Southeast Asia and the South Pacific. To add Africa to the mix would be a bit of a surprise. Ideally, it would be great to lend a hand in righting the wrongs and helping the helpless all over the world - but we are a country of 20 million people, of limited global importance, geographically isolated from much of the world. While I think we have an important part to play in our own backyard (think East Timor, Solomon Islands, PNG, etc), surely we would be stretching our resources a bit too thinly to take East Africa under our wing, too?
Posted by Otokonoko, Tuesday, 25 April 2006 2:00:06 AM
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We might have some connections being a fellow member of the Commonwealth but Australia should not be the first choice in offering ‘federation advice’ to the nascent East African Federation or whatever it would be called. While Australia’s success as a nation might surpass many others, its experience with federalism is not good. Any student of Australian Constitutional law will tell you that the federation aspect of the history of Australia since it’s official birth in 1901 has been a failure. As the Tasmania Dams case or even the Howard governments new industrial relations laws will attest, state sovereignty (which was meant to be protected by the Constitution) has been eroded to the point were most aspects of our lives are now influenced if not regulated by the federal government.
While Tasmanians, South Australians and Victorians etc are still deep down Australians and thus to some degree have accepted this erosion of sovereignty, there is no reason why Ugandans Kenyans and Tanzanians would similarly acquiesce.
I suggest this emerging federation should ask the help of the United States, which has had success in confederating states to form an efficient, power balanced, central government while at the same time guaranteeing regional areas their relevant authority.
Posted by Edward Carson, Tuesday, 25 April 2006 11:23:23 AM
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Africa is a very complex place,Africa(east africa) needs its own main body of government , Africa is not a country,it has 53 plus countries many languages.Perhaps some of this support can come from Africans who have left the contient, and then move on to the West now in high positions. Good Leaders like in Botswana and Namibia who can turn things around.Real leaders.
Posted by Amel, Tuesday, 25 April 2006 1:03:24 PM
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Bravo Graham,

Yes, the need for a friendly support, revisiting the lost time and care for the last 40+ years of friendship is a great platform to fend for from now hence.

East African federation was earmarked and left to litter from the time the late Julius Nyerere of Tanzanaia & The late Jomo Kenyatta of Kenya left the scene of politics and nationalism. Milton Obote struggled with his Ugandan nation that slopped into anarchy. In all countries bar Uganda none had civil wars that derailed nation building.

Kenyatta and Nyerere have gone beyond their common boundaries to clamp hands with Kwame Nkurumah of Nigeria, Mobutu Seseseko of Zaire and other African leaders to forge for united Africa with one common language- swahili but a quagmire of superiority complex of West Africans, and wars such as the Biafra, has eloped the leaders ambitions. The history of federation and union has always been in the minds of many citizens including myself, and the need for such greater union is no doubt beneficial to all but if corruption and national destitution remains intrinsic then the “ outside help” will fetch far too less.

Let us not forget, the entire African nation has not yet got real independence from colonial powers as interest groups and colonial remnants still scourge our political and economical independence. For example, more than 10,000 hectares in Kenya’s Abarderes region, and more than 15, 000 hectares of land on the slopes of Mt Kilimanjaro of Tanzania, are land grabbed by British colonial invaders and now belongs to white settlers and Indians surrounded by landless destitute peasants. Comes the second colonisation of “decolonised” Africa, only 12 graduates were left to fend for an entire nation, Zaire (now known as DR CONGO) when Belgium left then the colonial remnants and their servants-Indians were favoured and privileged; monetary, employment, education, land and opportunities. Remember the Mugabe and the late Idi Amin factor? The story is long!!

Australia will match great friendship as long as the intimidation and superiority “finger” of Howard does not mar the aims, but I doubt Howard’s regime?

Posted by galty, Tuesday, 25 April 2006 10:47:35 PM
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The Oz embassy in Kenya is arrogant and useless, has no clue what is happening in Kenya. He's never even there, too busy enjoying himself I bet. I hope he gets investigated and I pray he gets replaced. The current situation is this, Kenya is politically going backwards under Kibaki who fired his colleagues, the very coalition who brought him into power 2002. Recent media assaults, state sponsored violence has tainted the political landscape, many tumulteous things have happened in Kenya the last couple months, including the failure of that constitution referendum last year. I find it a joke admidst all this, he's concerned about a pamphlet. If that man cared for any bilateral initiatives to happen between Kenya and Oz and I'm telling you the opportunities to do such a plentiful, he'd have voiced his concerns like all the other envoys residing in the country, actions like attending co-joint business ventures etc. etc.
Posted by jasmin, Monday, 8 May 2006 10:13:38 PM
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