All his life, Julius Kambarage Nyerere, worked so hard to unite his country, the East African region and the African continent.
So great was his conviction in cooperation with other countries that during their struggle for the independence of the mainland Tanganyika, he was prepared to delay their independence, ‘if this could speed up the independence of Kenya and Uganda’.
When this didn’t happen, he furiously pursued the merger of Tanganyika and Zanzibar creating a one country called Tanzania today. On his now-merged two countries, he added Uganda and Tanzania creating the East African Community.
After the creation of the Community, he proceeded to strategically push for a political federation of East Africa. Unfortunately, the harder he worked to build a stronger region, the harder the internal and external forces which were originally opposed to a strong regional grouping, were working to break up the grouping.
In 1976, the EAC was broke up by our leaders who lacked foresight. It must be remembered this was at the time European countries were busy building a Union of their own, the European Union – a copy cat of our own community. If it was good for Europe, how could it not have been good for us!
Nyerere never gave up. After retiring from Tanzania presidency, he established the South to South Commission through which the countries of the developing South (read third world as opposed to the developed north) could cooperate in trade and development.
At the time of his death, third world countries were cooperating more and the East African Community had been reborn. Unfortunately, with Mwalimu Nyerere gone, President Kikwete has turned against EAC political federation. To the extent that the other leaders evoked Nyerere’s advice and decided to federate without Tanzania.
In the absence of Tanzania, Kenya, Rwanda and Uganda have rolled out a number of projects: a railway line from Mombasa to Kampala and on to Kigali, and an oil pipeline from South Sudan to Kampala and from Kampala to Kenya. Other joint projects include introduction of a single tourist visa and the easing of movement of the EAC citizens within the region by use of national identity cards.
Realising Tanzania stood to miss out on opportunities Tanzanians have started accusing their un-visionary leaders. Dr Kitila Mkumbo, a Senior Lecturer at the University of Dar es Salaam gave this reaction: ‘Historically, since colonial times, Tanzania has been a laggard in the East African integration process.
‘During colonial East Africa in 1917, a customs union was formed, but only Uganda and Kenya joined instantly with Tanzania joining only later in 1947. Also, in 1933 when the largest telecom company in Africa, the East African Postal and Telecommunication Company in Africa, was formed Tanzania did not initially join. It was a company for Uganda and Kenya, while Tanzania only joined later’.
‘Few years before independence it was Kenya and Uganda who jointly agreed to develop the grand Kenya-Uganda Railway; Tanzania was not part of this project. Some people are thus not totally surprised by the Tanzania’s procrastination and dilly-dallying position in the EAC’.
‘During Mwalimu Nyerere’s time it is Tanzania that always pushed for a political federation in East Africa as an important impetus for all other integration milestones. Annoyingly, it is Tanzania that is now strangely leading the opposition against the idea of a fast tracked east African political federation for reasons that are clearly nonsensical,’ he concludes.
Question is; What would Nyerere say today about his successors’ opposition to his project?