BY BESI NDEREYA
In 1460, the Portuguese arrived at the Coast of what is now Sierra Leone and on Christmas day 1498; Vasco da Gama rounded the southern tip of Africa at Natal (Natali). This voyage across the Atlantic to the Indian Ocean by Da Gama as well as the earlier voyage to the Americas by Columbus was a response to economic as well as military pressures forced upon the Europeans by the Ottoman Turks.
These pressures are therefore the primary reason that Europeans hurriedly set off on conquest of new lands. In the Americas, the indigenous peoples – mistakenly referred to as Red Indians – suffering from similar organizational and societal defects as Africans, were wiped out by Europeans. Thus Europeans became Americans. The black man from the “dark continent” of Africa would not die easily. 500 years of slavery and colonization notwithstanding.
President Museveni notes that “there was also the gradual destruction of the artisan classes (the black smiths, the carpenters, the copper-smiths, the medicine men, etc.) and replacing their products with the imported ones. Even with the primitive societies, they always produced their own food, their own clothes, their own weapons (spears, bows and arrows, etc.) and means for their own shelter (housing materials). It may only be the Africans of the colonial and neo-colonial era that depend on the food, clothes, weapons and building materials of others. All this was a consequence of the distortions emanating from colonialism.”
By 1950, African nationalists in different geographical epochs begun clamoring for Independence. Africans dug into the primeval mud of history and there found her laws. African revolutionaries like Nyerere, Nkrumah, Kaunda, Cabral, Dr. Mondlane and others were empirics. They were not “Jacobins” like the opposition in Uganda now is. This is why African revolutions for Independence succeeded. By 1994, the last occupied territory of Africa, South Africa, gained her independence. Mandela’s ascendency from Hero to Champion was a consequence of these Revolutionaries and Revolutions.
The hope of African peoples for economic solidarity was however quickly dashed. By 1979, Africa was a continent of sometimes peaceful but often violent coups. Our liberators either forgot the cause for which Independence was fought for or the old weaknesses of tribalism and external interference were not thoroughly dealt with. History, it seems had left us “with mud and carried the corpses of the dead.”
This is why, the NRM, as early as 1983 adopted its 10 point program. Chief in this program were: Restoration of Democracy, Consolidation of National security and elimination of all forms of sectarianism, Defending and consolidating National Independence and Cooperation with other African countries in defending human and democratic rights of all Africans. These principals have informed NRM’s vision of Uganda, East Africa and Africa.
The East African community, revived by Arap Moi (Kenya), Benjamin Mkapa (Tanzania) and Yoweri Museveni (Uganda) was revived in July 2000 and today is a success story being emulated by other regional blocks. The combined GDP of East Africa’s 6 partner states is now USD 146 Billion. A strong economic block in East Africa has meant that harmonious policies on trade negotiation with the European Union as well as the United States favor East Africa. A prime example is our treaty with the EU on “Everything But Arms”.
Besides trade, however, the East African region is now militarily stable. Coups are now shunned and democracy as well as respect of human rights continue to prosper. The creation of an East African Standby force safe guards the ideals of democracy.
The Continental Free Trade Area (CFTA), championed by president Kagame and the African Union can only work if Africa first strengthens her regional blocs of COMESA, SADC, ECOWAS, CEMAC and EAC. President Museveni opines thus: “political integration needs more intimacy. The people should either be similar or compatible. That is why I prefer Mwalimu Nyerere's strategy of Regional Federations where feasible.” He is right. This is because Integration of Africa resolves itself around 3 points: Prosperity, Strategic Security, and fraternity.
To paraphrase Koestler, “For those who had changed the face of history, there is no other duty than to stay here and be ready”. Africa finds herself at a precipice. To make our way in this fast changing global sphere of military adventurism, conglomerates and scientific innovation – the case for Africa’s Integration at firstly regional level and then Continental level is Critical. “History knows no scruples and no hesitation. Inert and unerring, she flows towards her goal.” The new Ottoman Turks (Europeans, Americans, Chinese and Turkey) are plotting. The face of history must be changed in Africa’s favor.
“The African leaders, therefore, need to work hard so as not to share the fate of the pre-colonial tribal chiefs that let down their peoples.” – Yoweri Museveni.
The writer is a Communications Assistant at Government Citizens Interaction Centre (GCIC), Ministry of ICT & National Guidance.