30 June 2012 - Can unions of nations work?
Let us start with the granddaddy of them all in modern times. The European Union, set up in the 1992 Maastricht Treaty, by a series of leaps and bounds, came to a head in 2004, with numbers shooting to a giddy 25 countries from 15, since then to 27. Condensed like this, it all makes up for fitfully frenetic activity since the signing of the Paris Treaty of 1951. The idea had first been mooted in a 1946 speech by great wartime British leader Winston Churchill, calling for a United States of Europe. France’s De Gaulle, perhaps for that reason, sat on it.
Then as now, the question raises its head: Can Unions of Nations Work? (Or to put it in more culinary fashion: Could an orange marry an onion and live happily thereafter?) In Europe, it goes without saying, current events suggest that, however desirable in so many ways, uniting already existing nations is fraught with complications, especially in financial and political fields, two of the most important for which they were mooted from the start.
For example, will the Euro, the currency of the region, survive current buffeting arising out of the need of the European Union trying to come to the rescue of troubled members, currently (but not exclusively) Greece and Spain? Not all EU members are tied, or even need to be, into the cumbersomely named monetary Eurozone (for example Britain and the small but well-formed Denmark) but if the perhaps rashly named currency dies, which it looks like doing, can the rest be far behind? Never mind how greatly divergent they are in power in the first place?
These are matters to keep the world sleep badly, not just Europe, the gaping black hole left if it imploded being difficult, if not impossible, to fill. You wonder whether the European leadership, led by indomitable German Chancellor Merkel, might not already be planning a visit to China, newest Donor on the block. (Neighbour, pray Africa and the others beat them to it!)
The above, very important obviously in its own right, was partly employed to introduce what for the Eastern Africans is the crucial matter of their own Unity, which has been spluttering along for a decade or so, without the light at tunnel’s end brightly to be seen. Well, if the Europeans, as we see, can take seven decades to get where they are now since Churchill suggested a USE, what do you expect of the imitative Africans?
Your columnist likes to fashion the revolutionary retort that it is precisely because those Colonisers are drifting that we should make concerted efforts to overtake them. In East Africa the number of countries already engaged albeit lackadaisically is five: Uganda, Kenya, Tanzania, Rwanda, Burundi (in no specific order).
Why can we not use the dynamics of our strong bond of knowing each so well to advance the idea of Working Together or Dying Separately? If we wait for others (say our Mighty Donors) to do it for us, we shall perish. The late Stephen Biko put it even more graphically even as he started being killed: “Blacks, you are alone!”
In Tanzania last week, basking in the warmth of friendship, our host told us a stirring tale. He and Mozambican Leader Chissano, met up and decided to commence building a bridge between their two countries, a vision first dreamt by Tanzania’s Nyerere and Mozambique’s Machel in the 70s. All other “well-wishers” (sorry, Donors) had meanwhile yawned and waved them away!
By sacrificing other needs, the bridge, called Unity Bridge, was built, and stands, metaphor and reality, at Negomona, Mozambique, across the Ruvuma River. It was opened by Mozambique’s Guebuza and Tanzania’s Kikwete in March 2010. (“For how much,” I enquired. “Sixty million US dollars,” answered Ben Mkapa. “A man in our country got eight more than that!” sighed I.)
In Rwanda, directly we left Dar, we went to Gahini for the commemoration of the East Africa Revival and the life of Sam Kutesa’s father, Kosiya Kyamuhangire. The roads of Rwanda were a revelation, as were the buildings mushrooming up in the capital Kigali, as, to be honest, are those in Kampala.
Remembering the couple of years when relations between Uganda and Rwanda were so bad military fisticuffs were unleashed, and the situation now when grass has grown over battle grounds (not many, but some) you marvelled afresh how siblings can gouge at each other. But friendships often grow stronger beyond that.
How great for your columnist to be in Gahini again: born there in 1938, revisited once in ’55 (which I wrote in a poem, Gahini Lake) and now coming in the Autumn light of my Life to sing the praise of brave men and women, my parents (coming to replace Apolo Kivebulaya and Blasio Kigozi who had died of disease) among them, leaving their safely known existences to carry the Gospel to other lands.
How did they do it, from where did they get their great strength? When Kutesa in church announced me an Unbeliever, it was President Kagame who came to my protection. “John Nagenda might be an unbeliever in certain directions, but in [our regional] cooperation, never!” Let them write that on my grave when it’s time to go!