The East African Community: Union of Governments or Union of the People?

Studenteropgave: Kandidatspeciale og HD afgangsprojekt

  • Klaas Benjamin Johannsen Overlade
4. semester, Udviklingsstudier, Kandidat (Kandidatuddannelse)
In this thesis the question of how the EAC can become embedded into civil society is analyzed. In formal African integration schemes a common problem is the lack of public participation and inclusion of civil society actors in decision making processes. In the East African context, the EAC has historically been a statist regionalization project focused on strengthening the national economies of the east African states, not the integration of the east African peoples. As illustrated in this thesis, this trend continues in the present rebirth of the EAC, where political elites have recreated the EAC as formal regional intergovernmental integration scheme focusing on economic integration as a tool to stem negative influences of economic globalization. The exclusive focus on macroeconomics and intergovernmental cooperation has alienated the EAC from ordinary east Africans which view this regional institution as an elite project set up to benefit political elites in East Africa. Two problematic areas stand in the way of broad based regional integration in East Africa, firstly the dogmatic conception that regional integration efforts must be based on the post colonial African state, which due to its colonial legacy is a feeble and volatile foundation to build regional integration efforts upon. Political elites have appropriated the state for their own interests in order to secure political power and access to public resources and are hence unwilling to concede substantial national sovereignty to regional integration schemes which effectively are capable of limiting their political hegemonies. Statist regionalism therefore offers political elites optimal conditions to keep political control over political decision making processes at a regional level. The second impediment to sustainable regional integration is the manipulation of social identities during political contestations, “identity politics”, which is a common political strategy among east political actors to obtain & maintain political power. As east African examples show, ordinary citizens are mobilized & exploited by political actors during political elections and periods of regime crisis to support their candidacies and attack political opponents and groups which stand in their way of obtaining political power. In order to negate these tendencies and to link the EAC to East African civil society, various socio cultural integration mechanisms and political reforms were identified which could foster broad based regional integration in East Africa. Firstly the creation of EAC citizenship, formal travel documents and open border crossings were pointed out as mechanism to initiate people based regional integration. Secondly the promotion of Kiswahili as a regional first language was pointed out as a vital integration factor, enabling broad based interaction and understanding between east Africans. EAC citizenships & the common use of Kiswahili were singled out as vital ingredients in an emerging regional identity formation – “East Africaness” – was carries the promise of reconciling many of the current identity conflicts in the east African region and could foster “people based” regional integration instead of the present economic integration measures benefiting the east African states. Secondly east African regional CSO’s have been proactive campaigning for essential constitutional and institutional reforms of the EAC which could make the organization citizen inclusive. Regional elections to the permanent EAC institutions and referendums on vital integration measures were pointed out as constitutional reforms to give east Africans a direct say in political decision making processes. Furthermore civil society actors have promoted the creation of a permanent civil society advisory council in the EAC to devolve the executive wings some of its powers. In addition, since the EAC suffers from a fundamental information and communication deficit, the creations of national “people’s assemblies” were proposed as institutional mechanism to initiate public participation in the EAC. Since the EAC bureaucrats have so far shown little inclination to initiate these citizen inclusive reforms, regions CSO’s strive to create regional networks and encourage ordinary citizens via information campaigns to take part in the struggle to democratize the present national and regional governance structures. If regional CSO’s should succeed in these endeavors, the EAC could indeed become embedded in civil society, but given the presented obstacles and involved interests, they face a monumental task.
Antal sider83
Udgivende institutionAalborg University, DIR
ID: 17237658