«Agree to Disagree»: Federalism vs Confederalism in East Africa

Publication type Article
Status Published
Occupation: Senior Researcher
Institute of Ethnology and Anthropology, RAS
Institute for African Studies, RAS
Address: Moscow, 32a, Leninskii Prosp., 119991 Moscow, Russian Federation
Journal nameAsia and Africa Today
EditionIssue 11

The paper explores the present situation in the East African Community and the pitfalls of regional political integration as well as some challenges that the federal idea faces in East Africa. After the first attempt of 1967-1977 to amalgamate former dependent British territories but already sovereign at that moment Kenya, Uganda and Tanganyika/Tanzania, the Community was revived 20 years ago, in 1999, still having the same attributes as its predecessor: deep political differences, disparities, nationalisms and particular economic interests. The East African Community incorporates Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania joined by Rwanda, Burundi in 2007 and South Sudan in 2016. The East African Federation plan is alive though the prospects of expanding of the Community seem troublesome, taking into consideration such possible EAC members as politically instable and fragmented Federal Republic of Somalia or a new regional giant Ethiopia with its federal system’s shortcomings and controversial developmental policies.

While the stages of East African cooperation project - customs union, common market, monetary union, and federation replaced by political confederation in the short term - are designated, among multiple obstacles for fast-track merger one can indicate partner states’ overlapping membership in diverse regional organizations, lack of political will to unite. EAC nations’ sovereignty is presented as an impediment for coming together to form a federal state under a single government and one constitution. The author also deals with the domestic political dynamics in Tanzania including the course of pro-federal constitutional reform, the Union question, the case of Zanzibar separatism. The United Republic remains an example of a sovereigntist stance that has made recent summit of the EAC leaders finally «agree to disagree on federation» and choose a confederation as a suitable form of regional political design.

Keywordsregional political integration, federalism, confederalism, nationalism, East African Community, Tanzania
Publication date02.12.2019
Number of characters25619
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