Yoweri Museveni: Why Africa Must Unite Politically

Yoweri Museveni: Why Africa Must Unite Politically
President Yoweri Museveni

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

In the previous segments, President Yoweri 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 advancement 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:

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 advantage 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 Disadvantages

However, Uganda does not have coal; nor does Uganda have access to the sea. As we all know, these are big disadvantages. 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 strong 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.

Part Two