Sunday, 3 March 2013

East African territorial dilemma as Kenyans elect new President

After an ambivalent 10 years with President Mwai Kibaki, Uganda’s President Yoweri Museveni faces the daunting task of defining a new relationship with the eventual winner of Kenya’s March 4 General Election. With unresolved territorial and generational issues (especially if the Jubilee Alliance of Uhuru Kenyatta and William Ruto wins) in the background, relations between the two neighbours could enter tricky territory, as the relative youth of the region’s other leaders will make Museveni look increasingly anachronistic. For now, however, Museveni’s fears centre more around the threats to Uganda’s economy. To understand the gravity of this, one needs to go back 16 months. In October 2011, Museveni hopped onto the plane to Dar es Salaam and held a meeting with his counterpart Jakaya Kikwete, during which the Ugandan leader laid bare his fears over Uganda’s reliance on Kenya as the main route to the sea. At the time, it was anticipated that the Kenyan election would take place in 2012, and this was a plan to hammer out an infrastructure deal for the Tanga-Arusha-Msoma-Kampala railway line, as an alternative route, but the plan remained within the four walls where the big men discussed it. Yet, clearly, Museveni had done everything to mend fences with Kenya’s political elite, particularly the Odinga camp, which saw him as the man who endorsed Mwai Kibaki as winner of the disputed December 2007 election. More recently however, Museveni has been hobnobbing with Prime Minister Odinga, in what observers see as an attempt to ease the 2007-08 tensions. In the months after the 2007-08 post-election violence, the quarrel over the Lake Victoria island of Migingo that ensued between Nairobi and Kampala did not help matters as Museveni claimed the island was in Kenya but the water and fish were in Uganda. Business leaders, political analysts and observers argue that election time in Kenya is a trying moment, not just for its 43 million people but for the region. “From a business point of view, this is not a Kenyan election; Uganda, Rwanda and Burundi have no access to the port. Tanzania has its own port and it may be the only country in the EAC that can afford to look the other way,” said Issa Sekitto, spokesman of Kampala City Traders Association. Uganda Revenue Authority spokeswoman Sarah Banage said that about 18-20 per cent of imports in the weeks leading up to the election have come through the Central Corridor that runs from Dar and into Uganda via the Mutukula border post. Observers argue that, with Kenya being the main sea route to the Indian Ocean, Uganda’s trade faces a tricky future in the event of a win for the Jubilee Coalition’s Uhuru Kenyatta and his running mate William Ruto. The duo is answering cases before the International Criminal Court at The Hague for the 2007-08 post-election violence. An Uhuruto presidency will be tricky; if the ICC goes wrong, it could have knock-on effects on Ugandan trade if sanctions are imposed or diplomatic contacts restricted,” argues political analyst Charles Hornsby, whose 2011 book Kenya: A history since Independence accuses a select group of Kenyans, some of whom are in this election’s presidential line-up, of conspiring with Western powers to exploit the majority of their countrymen and women. Mr Hornsby argues that polling day will be calm, but any disputes or a bungled job by the election body, the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission, could plunge the country into chaos. “I am not expecting much trouble Monday and Tuesday, but if Kenyatta wins a narrow 50 per cent plus majority in round one, which is unlikely but not impossible, then we will see trouble on Wednesday. “We all need to keep our eyes on the IEBC, which has been far too cocky and I suspect is about to face a fall… but administrative issues do not automatically mean rigging,” Regional dynamics The other headache that the Kenyan election poses for the political and business elite in Kampala is that yet again, another of Museveni’s peers, President Mwai Kibaki, is leaving the stage, while the Ugandan leader shows no signs of relenting. Then there is the news coming out of Kigali that President Paul Kagame will not seek another mandate beyond 2017. With the death of Meles Zenawi last year, Ethiopia has a new leader in Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn. Clearly, the dynamics of leadership in the region are changing and this is a concern for Uganda, as senior presidential adviser on media and public relations John Nagenda admitted . “I honestly believe that the people of Uganda have been very giving to Museveni in the sense that he brought peace and security. So they ask, what happens if he goes? But having said that, I personally think that much as the nation has gained, Museveni can be the father of the nation in the background *****************************************************************************************President Jakaya Kikwete of Tanzania has insisted that war with Malawi is not a feasible outcome of ongoing disputes between the two countries over the ownership of the lake which borders the two countries. Lake Nyasa, known as Lake Malawi by Malawians, has been the source of disagreements since colonial times, which were rekindled recently when Malawi allowed gas and oil exploration to begin around the lake’s border. Rhetoric has escalated over the past few months although it seems both sides are now attempting to calm tensions. A history of disputes Located at the junction of Malawi, Mozambique and Tanzania, Lake Nyasa – the eighth largest in the world – contains an estimated 168,000 tonnes of fish of nearly 1000 species, and is able to provide sustenance for nearly 600,000 people. In the early 1960s, Malawi’s first president, Hastings Kamuzu Banda, claimed that Lake Nyasa was part of Malawi referring to 1890 Heligoland Agreement between Britain and Germany which stipulated that the border between the countries lay along the Tanzanian side of the lake. This treaty was reaffirmed at the 1963 Organisation of African Unity summit where it was accepted reluctantly by Tanzania although disputes reignited in 1967-8. Malawi also alleges that the 2002 and 2007 African Union resolutions upheld the colonial agreement because of the emphasis on member states upholding the borders inherited upon independence. Some, however, argue that it is necessary to correct the errors of the colonial powers, and Tanzania has sought recourse to international law, which indicates that borders are generally in the middle of a body of water, claiming Tanzania should therefore own half the lake. Oil and the re-emergence of the issue The resurgence of the dispute began in October when Malawi’s former president, Bingu wa Mutharika, awarded a contract to British Surestream Petroleum to start gas and oil exploration on the eastern part of the lake. Since then, a number of disagreements over the use of the lake have arisen. At the close of July, Tanzania announced plans to purchase a new $9 million ferry to cross Lake Nyasa’s waters. Malawi’s Ministry of Lands responded by claiming that Tanzania has no legal right to start operating on Lake Malawi since the ownership and border dispute remains unresolved. For their part, Tanzanian authorities argued that Malawian fishing and tourist boats were encroaching on Tanzania’s waters. Hilda Ngoye, MP for the Mbeya region, alleged that Malawi has been conducting tourism activities beyond its territorial waters, escalating tension further. Earlier this month, a two-day meeting was held with the aim of reviving stalled negotiations on the delineation of the lake’s boundaries. Tanzania’s Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation Minister, Bernard Membe, requested that the exploration activities be shelved until discussions had been fully resolved, saying “any exploration or research activities for oil and gas prospects must stop forthwith as their presence was likely to jeopardise the ongoing negotiations and pose a security threat". Tanzania’s Attorney General, Frederick Werema, has added that Tanzania will seek international intervention if diplomatic negotiations do not produce results. Malawi’s Minister of Energy and Mining, Cassim Chilumpha, has, however, countered that Malawi is justified to start exploration since the lake lies within the borders stipulated by the Heligoland treaty. Overblown fears? Amidst these legal claims and disagreements, some representatives have also sought recourse to more potentially inflammatory language. Edward Lowassa, Chair of Tanzania’s Parliamentary Committee for Defence, Security and Foreign Affairs, for example told reporters that the country is ready to wage war against Malawi if necessary. “We expect this conflict will be solved diplomatically… Malawi is our neighbour and therefore we would not like to go into war with it”, he said, continuing, “however, if it reaches the war stage then we are ready to sacrifice our people’s blood and our military forces are committed in equipment and psychologically.” Both countries have increasingly backed away from such harsh statements, however, and Malawi’s Minister of Home Affairs and Internal Security, Uladi Mussa, told a local radio that Malawians have nothing to fear, reassuring listeners that “issues of boundaries between Malawi and Tanzania are amicably being resolved”. Malawi’s Minister of Foreign Affairs, Ephraim Mganda Chiume, also played down the conflict, calling it simply a misinterpretation. “As Malawi we are not calling it a conflict or dispute rather a misunderstanding and at this point we are going to sort it out ourselves without the inventions of other bodies.” Drawing a line under the dispute According to Simburashe Mungoshi, a historian and political analyst with the University of Malawi, the dispute can be resolved only if the two countries take a leaf from how their colonisers Britain and Germany dealt with the boundary issue. “When these boundaries were agreed upon by the British and Germans it was a give and take game” he explained to Think Africa Press. “The British had to give up claims in some territories in the Tanganyika area. Needless to say the Germans also had to give up [some claims]. If Tanzania wants a change in boundaries, it would be a give and take. Malawi is a land-locked country; we need access to the sea. Maybe they could give us an equivalent piece of land to take us to the sea.” As discussions continue, however, life goes on, and Tanzanians and Malawians continue to cross the border, selling and buying products that will ensure their livelihoods. Kyela District Commissioner Margaret Ester Malenga has emphasised the atmosphere of mutual dependence between citizens of the two countries, something she believes war would ruin. Representatives of the two countries are currently engaging in discussions in Mzuzu, Malawi, as part of a five-day summit ending on August 25 to resolve the border issue once and for all.

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