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CONTINENTAL INTEGRATION

It's possible to achieve the United States of Africa dream

Raila's appointment as AU envoy the should be viewed through a different prism altogether: President Kenyatta’s vision of internal and inter-African unity.

In Summary

• integration means more political stability, more security and more growth, first within the EAC, then within Africa at large.

• Some of our allies may prefer to deal with us separately, but we must explain that it is also in their interest to see a more united Africa.

Namibian President Hage Geingob (2nd left) holds hands with President Uhuru Kenyatta (L), Raila Odinga (2nd R) and Deputy President William Ruto at Bukgungu stadium in Kakamega County during the Mashujaa day celebrations on October 20, 2018
Namibian President Hage Geingob (2nd left) holds hands with President Uhuru Kenyatta (L), Raila Odinga (2nd R) and Deputy President William Ruto at Bukgungu stadium in Kakamega County during the Mashujaa day celebrations on October 20, 2018
Image: COURTESY

When Raila Odinga and President Uhuru Kenyatta shook hands at the steps of Harambee House on March 9, a wave of speculation followed.

The stream of partisan interpretations only grew when AU Commission chairman Moussa Faki appointed Raila as the African Union’s High Representative for Infrastructure and Development.

So, what does the appointed, which Faki thanked Uhuru for supporting, mean politically and for 2022?

 

It is my view that the conversation around the appointment should be viewed through a different prism altogether: President Kenyatta’s vision of internal and inter-African unity.

An intense series of meetings with foreign leaders that he had held since the start of the year reminds us of President Kenyatta’s bold vision for Africa and his unwavering leadership towards it.

“The more we meet, the more we interact, the better we integrate as a people", Uhuru told his Rwandan counterpart, President Paul Kagame, in Kigali last month, emphasising how much easier it has become for people and goods to move across borders.

In his subsequent meeting with Uganda’s President Yoweri Museveni, Uhuru outlined his view of the region’s future: Instead of being landlocked African countries, we shall work towards becoming land-linked.

When Museveni took the SGR from Mombasa’s seaport through Nairobi to the new land port he inaugurated with Uhuru, it was a positive sign not only to the two countries but also to the DRC and the region.

If goods previously needed 21 days to reach Mombasa, they soon will be able to make the journey in just two days. For Uhuru, this is part of a consistent and long-standing vision.

Soon after his reelection, he announced that visas will be granted upon arrival to all Africans, explaining that “free movement of people... has always been a cornerstone of Pan-African brotherhood and fraternity. The freer we are to travel and live with one another, the more integrated and appreciative of our diversity we will become”.

Indeed, integration means more political stability, more security and more growth, first within the EAC, then within Africa at large.

Prof Peter Kagwanja, the CEO of Africa Policy Institute, points out that with a population of over 1.2 billion, Africa is collectively the world's single largest market after China and India. We just need to learn to act as one.

Pan-Africanism emerged as an ideology following World War II as a powerful force for African decolonisation.

The AU was set up in 1963 as a compromise between federalists and nationalists. Nationalists criticised pan-Africanism, fearing the homogenisation of the many African traditions.

 

But today, after more than five decades of independent nation building, no one should worry about the loss of Nigerian, Senegalese or Kenyan identity. The historical, cultural and spiritual legacy of individual African states is not going to dissipate because we cooperate.

At its inception, the Pan-African movement was clearly leftist, echoing Cold War politics, anti-imperialist and socialist discourse

. In fact, this was the most unacceptable aspect of Pan-Africanism to Kenya’s Founding Father Jomo Kenyatta. He supported breaking away from oppression collectively as Africans, but he never aligned with the Soviet Union, choosing instead to cooperate with the West.

Nowadays the international political landscape is very different. From the right vs left dichotomy, we are resettling along the lines of extremist vs moderate parties. Those tensions also push many of the old liberal democracies towards a more isolationist stance. Kenyatta’s refreshing 2.0 version of Pan-Africanism doesn’t place Kenya on the right or the left, but puts it at the head of global moderation and cooperation.

Some of our allies may prefer to deal with us separately, but we must explain that it is also in their interest to see a more united Africa.

While they are losing themselves to internal divisions, American and European leaders know that a more united Africa would be a more effective partner to address global challenges such as irregular migration, the rise of ISIS and climate change.

Of course, there are hurdles to African integration. Free trade is often impeded not by an anti-federalist ideology, but by narrow and corrupt economic interests of selected families in some African nations.

Territorial integrity is another issue. Somalia’s outrageous claims over our sea borders, potentially rendering our country landlocked, are some of the roadblocks we face.

Yet we should recall the words of Jesus Christ: “If a person had even the smallest amount of genuine faith, he would be able to tell a mountain to pick itself up and cast itself into the sea, and it would obey him” (Mark 11:23).

In other words, if there’s a will there’s a way. And President Kenyatta certainly does have both of them. 

Josiah Magut is the chairman, Bomas of Kenya 


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