Presentation by H.E. Yoweri Kaguta Museveni President of the Republic of Uganda On “Geo-Politics of the Region and Uganda’s interest” to the NRM Caucus at NALI, Kyankwanzi

Tuesday 11th February 2014

Uganda is a landlocked country but it is a country, which is at the centre of the Great Lakes and of the culture of that huge area.  

Recently, in Angola, I pointed out that in the Bantu dialects of this vast area, the word for Lake is: enyaanja, nyaanja, or Nyanza, etc.  That is how you get the Kinyanja dialect of Zambia, Malawi and Mozambique.  That is how you get the Nyanza Province of Kenya.  All these variations of the word, Nyanja, refer to the Lakes: Nalubaale (Victoria), Kyoga, Mwitanzigye (Albert), Masyooro (George), Obutuumbi- Ruchuru (Edward), Kivu, Tanganyika, Turkana and Nyasa.  These lakes produce the longest river in the world, the Nile, known as Kiira.  Interestingly, the name of President Salva Kiir of South Sudan ─ Kiir ─ also means the “Nile” in Dinka dialects.  The Bantu dialects in this vast area are quite similar.  The Nilotic dialects are also quite similar.  Then, the two are linked.  This is not to forget the third dimension of Swahili ─ a detribalized dialect that was distilled from these very languages by our people at the Coast.  

This is a zone of lakes, forests, snow-capped mountains right at the equator, huge savannah lands and powerful rivers.  It is a land of minerals, rich agriculture and plentiful wildlife ─ especially, good for tourism.  What is, then, the geo-politics of the area and what are Uganda’s interests?  Soon after independence, you had four clusters of interests in the area:
(i)    the Arab chauvinist interest in the Sudan;
(ii)    the French-Belgian-American interests in Congo,
       Burundi and Rwanda;
(iii)    the British-American interests in Kenya; and
(iv)    the Pan-Africanist interests in Tanzania and Zambia   
       (Mzee Mwalimu Nyerere, Mzee Kaunda with people  
       like Milton Obote oscillating between the different
       ideological interest).
With the upheavals, civil wars and liberation struggles of the last 50 years, the ideological landscape of the area has changed.

The Pan-Africanist or nationalist interest or orientation has spread to Mozambique, Zimbabwe, South Africa, Namibia, Angola, Ethiopia, Uganda, Rwanda, Burundi and even Congo because President Kabila is a Swahili speaker from the Eastern Congo.  In the South Sudan, the Africans have pushed back Arabism to latitude 11o North of the Equator from latitude 4o  and 12 minutes North of the Equator.  Kenya has been taken over by the independent minded alliance of President Uhuru Kenyatta and Vice President Arap Ruto.  Emperor Haile Selassiu, the pro-Western absolute ruler of that country, has long been replaced by the leftist actors like Mengistu and now the EPRP of Meles Zenawi and Prime Minister Desalem.  Therefore, ideologically the situation has radically changed since the 1960s.

This ideological change has, however, not yet been translated into a political union that some of our leaders, like Nkrumah and Nyerere, had envisaged at independence.  Nevertheless, that dream has been revived ever since the NRM came to power in 1986.  With our brothers and sisters in Kenya, Tanzania, Rwanda and Burundi, we have intensified the discussion on political integration ─ the need for the East African Federation.  The future for this cause is at its brightest.  We shall definitely succeed.  Why do we need a Federation?  Is the common market not enough?  We need the Federation because of the need for strategic security.  The Americans and other big powers have for long aimed at what they call four dimensional superiority against other countries: that is superiority on land, at sea, in the air and in space.  Where does that live us?  How shall we maintain our freedom?  Can Uganda compete with the super powers in those spheres by itself?  The answer is a big “NO”.  We cannot. If we cannot, then what is our strategic security?  Who will guarantee our independence?  This is why, fortunately, the answer is available:  East Africa ─ the similar or linked people of East Africa ─ uniting economically and politically as we intend to do and as the Pan-Africanist elders before us intended to do.  Africa was colonized in the past because the tribal kings and chiefs who failed to unite our forefathers, the clear signals of danger notwithstanding.  I have quoted for you two phenomena before.  Phenomenon number one was the fact that Vasco Da Gama went around the Cape of Good Hope (Cape Town) in 1498 AD.  Thereafter, he proceeded to Mombasa and India.  Since Mombasa was communicating with Zanzibar, the people of Zanzibar must have known of the arrival of these new people immediately.  Indeed, the Portuguese, later in the year 1591, they built in Mombasa a Fort known as Fort Jesus.  Since that time, information was reaching Uganda that new powerful people were approaching our area.  There was a prophet or a foreteller (Omuraguzi) from Karagwe, Tanzania.  His name was Kakara ka Shagama, Kamango, Katondgyira ka Rukunyu.   He, for instance, foretold, among others things, two phenomena:  “obunaku butari obu, abagyendera haiguru baryatwaara ensi egyi” ─ meaning that “in the days to come, people who fly through the air will colonize this part of the world”.  The second phenomenon he predicated was: “obunaku butari obu, abatetonderwa, baryatwaara ensi egyi” ─ in the days to come, people who cannot even recognize who your ancestors are, will colonize this part of the world”.  He also foretold of good things to come. He, for instance, said “obunaku butari obu, oryashanga engata igatoija, nigatoijerwa” ─ meaning that in the days to come, the common people, who in the feudal times, used to take tribute (emitoijo) to the chiefs, will be the ones in power.

Yet, in spite of these warnings and ordinary common sense, the kings and the chiefs who were controlling this area did nothing to unite us politically.  Instead, they were busy fighting each other, although trade was going on. When the Europeans initially came to East Africa, they were weak ─ their guns were still primitive (they, for instance, did not have automatic guns and they were still using muzzle loaders), quinine had not been discovered to overcome malaria, the steam engine had not been discovered to cover long distance travel; nor had mortars been discovered to fire a parabolic trajectory.  However, while our chiefs were busy fighting each other and engaged in self-glorification, the Europeans used the almost 400 years to strengthen themselves.  By the time Hannington Speke arrived here in 1862, the Europeans were much stronger than they had been in 1498.  This is a difference of 364 years.  This generation of African leaders needs to, therefore, be very careful not to be like those African chiefs ─ just engage in self-glorification (Excellency, Rt. Honourable, Honourable, Lord Mayor, Their Worships, Highnesses, etc.) and fail to deal with the factors that can guarantee our future.  Fortunately, in East Africa we are moving.  I salute all our colleagues.

Apart from the need for political integration in order to guarantee our strategic future, there are, of course, four other imperatives.  These are:
(i)    the need to unite our markets so that they become more viable;
(ii)    the need to develop cost effective routes to the oceans (the Indian ocean and the Atlantic ocean);
(iii)  the need to protect our rights over the Nile river; and
(iv)    the need to use the united East African market to bargain for durable access to bigger and lucrative external markets (EU, USA, Russia, India, Japan, China, South America, etc).

The need for markets can be illustrated by two examples.  One is ours, we the milk producers.  Prior to 1986, all the processed milk being used in Uganda was either from Europe (Denmark) or from Kenya (KCC).  Starting with 1989, I started promoting the Dairy industry in the Kiruhuura area which, until then, was only a beef producing area.  By 1995, the milk production had jumped from the 200 million litres of 1986 to 1.2 billion litres.   The price of milk collapsed.  That is when people like the Hon. Bidandi Ssali converted their land from dairy production to entertainment.  What was the problem?  A small internal market.  How was it cured?  It is the processors like SAMEER who rescued us.  By processing the milk to fresh processed products like, long life (UHT), powdered milk, butter, cheese, etc., we were linked with the wider regional market and even with the global market (Middle East, etc).  As I speak now, a litre of milk at Rushere is Uganda shillings 1,000 (depending on the season, it goes up to shs. 1,500 during the dry season).  The wider market is the medicine that is necessary for poverty eradication through production.  The other example is right now in front of us.  Ever since, the fighting started inside South Sudan on the 15th of December, 2013, demand for Uganda’s products (industrial and food) has declined.  In Hon. Maria Kiwanuka’s paper of yesterday, she pointed out that at Nimule, 400 business trucks were entering South Sudan daily before the conflict.  At the peak of the conflict, business trucks reduced to 30-50 per day only.  Today, the situation is normalizing and 200 trucks are entering South Sudan daily.  Mayur Mahdivani was here yesterday and told me that he now had in store sugar worth US$ 30 million unsold.  This is the power of the market.  It is a matter of life and death.  It is a matter of poverty or prosperity.  The talk about tribes, religion, gender chauvinism is only engaged in by the idlers and parasites who do not have to deal with the realities of the production; of wealth creation.  

The issue of the routes to the Ocean does not require too much elaboration.  How can we reach the outside world except through Mombasa, Dar-es-Salaam and Matadi (in Congo)?  When Sudan is peaceful, we can also reach the Mediterranean through Alexandria, Egypt, by using the Nile with a few railway loops to avoid the cataracts.  With President Uhuru coming to power in Kenya, there is a sense of more urgency in dealing with the issues of the landlocked countries.  By his intervention, the days it takes a container to move from Mombasa to Kampala have reduced from 18 to 3 days.  With Kenya, we are also developing a standard gauge railway from Mombasa to Nimule, Kasese and Kigali.  We are also discussing with Tanzania about the Central Corridor.  Even with airways, you must overfly the neighbouring countries, the ICT backbone cables must go through the neighbouring countries and so must the oil pipelines for crude and refined products.   

Political and economic integration is also crucial for bargaining with other countries for access to their markets e.g. the USA, EU, India, China, Russia, Japan, etc.  I have once told you of the Banyakore proverb: “ija turye kumwe biri aine ekyakurebireho” ─ the one who invites you for a meal does so because he expects something in return”.  The Baganda say: “Kabo kamuwala kagenda kajudde, kadda kajudde” ─ meaning that “the daughter’s gift basket goes full and comes back full” ─ meaning that favours must be returned.  A big market commands a lot of respect.  

The Chinese are still communists.  However, the USA works with them very intimately as if they are part of the Western alliance on account of the power of the market.  A bigger African market will open for us all doors in the World.

Finally, there is the issue of the Nile. The Nile links Burundi, Rwanda, Tanzania, Uganda, Kenya, DRC, Ethiopia, South Sudan, North Sudan, Eritrea and Egypt. There should be no problem about this.  However, the problem in Egyptian leaders always mis-define the problems of the Nile.  They wrongly think that if the upstream countries remain backward, then the supply of water to Egypt will be secure because all the water will not be used for electricity generation and or for irrigation.  They say that the upstream  countries should not use the Nile for irrigation because they have rain.  Yet, you know how unreliable rain fed agriculture is.  I used to tell Field Marshal Mubarak that the dangers to the Nile are two: lack of electricity in the Tropics which leads peasants to cut trees for firewood and primitive agriculture which leads peasants to invade forests in search of more agricultural land because of lack of industrialization. Electricity generation temporarily reduces water levels from the river, the water goes through turbines and goes back into the river.  How is that a problem?  Even irrigation in the Tropics cannot be a problem for Egypt.  Fortunately, most of the countries in Tropics have rainfall.

Therefore, any irrigation is, really, standby irrigation ─ needed when the rain delays in coming or stops early.  This is because plants need water at certain stages. Therefore, irrigation in the Tropics is more for stabilizing agriculture rather than being the primary source of water.  The primary source will remain the rain.  Is storing water in dams in the Tropics bad?  I do not think so.  I think the mistake is in storing water in the dams in Egypt because there is more evaporation in Egypt than here because the desert air takes more water.  Evaporation in Aswan dam is 10 billion cubic metres per annum.  In lake Tana there is about 6 billion cubic metres per annum.  Moreover, the total volume of water at Khartoum, where the White and Blue Nile join, is just 82.5 billion cubic meters of water per annum.

According to the colonial treaties, Egypt is supposed to take 55.5 billion cubic metres, Sudan 18.5 billion cubic metres and that is the end.  How about the upstream countries?  They should depend on the rain.  This is not correct.  That is why it is important to seat down with everybody and have a proper dialogue, that has never taken place, at the highest level.  The solution for the water needs of much of Africa may lie with the River Congo.  The river Congo, unlike the Nile, has a volume of 1,319 billion cubic metres of water per annum.  All this water is now flowing into the Ocean every second.  The answer may lie here.  Dialogue would eliminate these issues which have never been discussed at the Heads of State level.  Instead, endless suspicion is the order of the Day.  Uganda should be able to protect her interests in concert with others without damaging the legitimate interests of a friendly country like Egypt.  Since our region meets with the Middle East through North Africa and the Horn of Africa, there is the problem of terrorism fuelled by the ideological bankruptcy in the Middle East where they are busy dividing the people according to sects in Islam (Shia, Sunni, Alawites) and also putting Christianity in conflict with Islam.  Then they want to impose theocracies on the people. Apart from a wrong ideology, they also use wrong tactics and strategy ─ the use of indiscriminate violence, the use of suicide bombers, etc. We have had to confront these confused groups in Sudan and in Somalia.  Even here we had ADF.  Our anti-sectarian ideology rejects this line.  Fortunately, we have many allies in this fight.  Even the Egyptian army had to throw Mohammed Morse out.  Sectarian ideology  runs counter to the interests of rational economic production fuelled by markets as  I pointed out above.  This is, however, a temporary aberration.  It should not take much of our time because we are defeating it.   

In conclusion, Uganda’s interests in the region are five:
(i)        political integration to guarantee our strategic     future;
(ii)    economic integration to create demand and promote prosperity;
(iii)    routes to the oceans through Kenya, Tanzania, Congo, Rwanda, Burundi, Zambia and along the Nile;
(iv)    protecting our rights over the Nile; and
(v)    using the regional trading Bloc to bargain for market access to the markets of other countries.

In this speech I have not dealt with the cultural interests of the people ─ common languages and customs.  With integration, these will be subsumed within the effort.

I thank you.


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