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The East African : December 30th 2013
14 The EastAfrican NEWS DECEMBER 28, 2013 - JANUARY 3, 2014 LOOKING BACK TO 2013 Eventful year: From Kenya’s peaceful elections The≥e was neve≥ a dull moment in East Af≥ica in 2013, what with unending conflicts and tension between neighbou≥s By WASHINGTON AKUMU The EastAfrican D espite rhetoric to the contrary by governments, the events of 2013 demonstrated the fragile nature of the East African state and the region’s unsavoury reputation as a theatre of unending conflict. Political transitions remain a dicey affair in most countries, while neighbouring eastern Democratic Republic of Congo continued to play host to its usual cast of ragtag guerrilla outfits, affecting and sucking in the rest of the region. Kenya carried out a disputed but largely peaceful election and transition to a new system of devolved governance. Tanzanians are discussing a new Constitution, while Kigali and Kampala are exercised by the pending succession of two long-serving, larger-than-life presidents. To the north, the region’s youngest state ended the year on a bad note, with political conflict threatening to degenerate into full-scale ethnic-based civil war. M23’s fluctuating fortunes At the start of the year, the M23, a remnant Tutsi-linked guerrilla outfit that has been a constant thorn in the flesh of the DR Congo government, was on a high. It had just captured the strategically important and symbolic city of Goma in November 2012, with little resistance from a Congolese army in disarray and a UN force that had no authorisation to intervene militarily in the war. Those Kenyans and their elections! Kenya went into a general election on March 4 It was the first one under the country’s new constitution, whose centrepiece is devolved governance and a bicameral parliament. Electors were voting for six officials: President, senator, governor, MP, women’s representative and member of county assembly. Understandably, the region was on tenterhooks, the events of 2007/8 — when the country’s last elections triggered prolonged mayhem that resulted in the death of over 1,300 people and the displacement of 600,000 — still fresh in their minds. Kenyans stumped the sceptics, somehow managing to keep the peace despite a spirited and divisive campaign by the two main protagonists — President Uhuru Kenyatta’s Jubilee coalition and Prime Minister Raila Odinga’s CORD (Coalition for Reform and Democracy) — and an electoral process tainted by massive administrative failures and widespread claims of vote fixing. Raila Odinga, who had just seen his third stab at the Kenyan presidency flounder, to his credit, sought redress from the country’s freshlyconstituted Supreme Court. And despite the eventual verdict going against him, his coalition grudgingly “accepted and moved on,” ushering in a period of relative peace and stability as the country held its collective breath. Even then, the country remains sharply divided along political and ethnic fault-lines — a schism the Kenyatta regime has so far not done a very good job of healing. With peace talks starting in Kampala in December of the previous year, under the sponsorship of the Southern African Development Community (SADC) and International Conference on the Great Lakes Region (ICGLR) and the chairmanship of President Yoweri Museveni, the rebels appeared to have been handed much soughtafter legitimacy by the international community. But what happened to the M23 after that is living proof that a year can be a long time in politics. It was a rather subdued M23 that signed a loose “declaration” on peace with President Joseph Kabila’s government in Nairobi a fortnight ago, a document that fails to guarantee its key demands at the Kampala talks: Unconditional amnesty for its leaders and combatants and integration of its fighters into The cost of JK’s unsolicited advice During a summit of the African Union in Addis Ababa in May, Tanzania’s President Jakaya Kikwete and his colleagues from the Great Lakes region retreated to a sidelines meeting to discuss peace in the DR Congo. Kikwete chose that occasion to offer what then appeared like an innocuous word of advice to his neighbours: He asked Rwanda to consider “talking” to the FDLR rebels. Ditto Uganda and the Allied Democratic Forces-National Army for the Liberation of Uganda. His premise was that the UN’s Force Intervention Brigade (FIB), which Tanzania is leading, can only engage in the region on a temporary basis. The FDLR is a remnant Hutu militia group that is active in eastern DR Congo, and has waged a long-running guerrilla war against the government of President Paul Kagame. The ADF-NALU is a diminished Ugandan guerrilla outfit based in the northwestern part of the country. Kikwete’s advice was not received well in Kigali, where the government considers the FDLR a gang of genocidaires who should be tried for war crimes. Kagame described it as “utter nonsense.” Relations went south, with Tanzania expelling Rwandan immigrants, especially in the border region of Kagera. Ugandans and Kenyans were not spared, with a hike in work permit fees. The spat is partly blamed for the emergence of a trilateral alliance between the latter three countries, to the exclusion of Tanzania and Burundi, ostensibly to expedite regional integration. the DRC army. A series of defections and surrenders by its top leaders (Sultani Makenga, Bosco Ntaganda and Bishop Jean Marie Runiga) and fighters, withdrawal from Goma on the advice of Museveni and eventual defeat by the UN’s first combat force, the Tanzania-led FIB (Force Intervention Brigade) all conspired to diminish M23’s stature. People gather at a makeshift IDP camp at the UN Mission in South Sudan compound in Juba on December 22, following fighting in the capital. Picture: AFP Money union: Delusions of grandeur? It is ironic that in the year that saw a clear schism within the ranks of the EAC, the bloc made one of the most emphatic steps towards closer regional integration. The signing of the East African Monetary Union Protocol in November by the EAC Heads of State is a bold step towards an eventual political federation, which is the final stop in the phased approach to regional integration that the bloc has adopted. A full monetary union would ease business in the region by removing the inconvenience and loss of value that comes with currency conversions. Besides offering a nearhomogenous market of over 140 million, it would also improve the region’s competitiveness. While there is a grace period of 10 years within which certain conditions have to be met, analysts have been quick to warn of the pitfalls of a full monetary union, whose end-game would be a single currency and a joint central bank. For starters, the Customs Union and Common Market, which have to be fully implemented ahead of the monetary union, remain largely unrealised. Tax disputes, non-tariff barriers to trade and difficulties in moving factors of production across the region have made sure of this. Countries will also have to meet certain benchmarks on economic indicators like inflation and fiscal deficits. Analysts warn that failure to strictly adhere to this could result in a Eurozone situation, where taxpayers in rich countries have had to dig into their pockets to bail out non-performing laggards like Greece.
December 23rd 2013
January 6th 2014