Balance of power: East African Region

The last half of the nineteenth century saw most of the African countries gaining political independence. However, their united voice in the fight against colonialists seemed to last only for as long as the colonial powers was still in charge of the continents political affairs. In East Africa, the three major partners: Tanzania, Kenya and Uganda adopted differing policies in terms of land, public investments strategies and political approaches. The policies symbolized the emergence of divergent post-independence national approaches.

The result was each nation taking different paths aimed at promoting its strength regionally. However, not all the strategies were intended to result into taking of differing directions by the nations but rather some had unintended consequences. This paper will look at the East African region’s balance of power strategies and politics as from 1970’s to the modern day. The East Africa region emerging from years of war, civil strife and violence currently offers fresh grounds for interplay of power games and intrigues. Each country is increasingly seeking to assert its position as the regions strength.

This is unlike other world regions where power intrigues have reached climax and relevant alliances formed against or for in a bid secure the relevant states positions. For instance, in the United States region the U. S has asserted its authority and countries in fear of it have had to positively align themselves and the resentful ones like Cuba have undertaken a negative alignment. However, the question as to who wields the power balance in their favor is no longer an issue. The same cannot be said of the East African region.
The region is currently in a race for minerals exploration and policy formulation aimed at consolidating each nation’s position. Even as its nations head towards an economic integration, they cannot help but treat each other with caution and more so Kenya which is considered economically advantaged. This makes it a rich ground for analysis of the power issues. The East African region has seen substantial and profoundly unmistakable changes in terms of strategic frameworks. These transformations dating back to the colonial days have had the effect of shaping up the power balance in the region.
The most profound transformation aimed at balance of power was the fall of the East African Community in 1977. This was a result of each nation’s diverse approach to consolidate its positions of strength in the region. Kenya apparently based on its economic strength demanded to be awarded more seats in the regions decisions making organs, Idi Amin adopted dictatorship and expansionist ideas that threatened the regions stability and balance, while Tanzania undertook a more socialist approach unlike Kenya’s capitalist.
Uganda’s Idi Amin was often viewed as militant as he not only ruled dictatorially, but also made attempts at expanding his regional power militantly. For instance, is his 1978 attempt at annexing part of northern Tanzania formally Kagera. The result was constant tension between the states. Tanzania on the other hand often viewed Kenya as being an economic predatory nation more so regarding its material and human resources and hence embarked on policies aimed at locking out its population from taking over the countries investment opportunities and professional market.
Generally, they embarked on protectionist policies against a nation they believed had the potential of sucking up its market and in one instance considered joining the Southern Economic Block. Kenya on the other hand, contrary to its neighbors disregarded the idealistic socialistic block then that would have had severe economic, social as well political consequences given its years of British linkage. In balancing its position, Kenya opted to adopt a wait and see policy in positioning itself on international issues.
In general, Kenya opted to take non-aligned positions that would neither peach it alongside the west or the East’s rivalry at the time. Basically, the Kenyan policies aimed at protection of its integrity territorially, securing its economic as well as political structures but most importantly sustain its unique East African economic status. Kenya as a country has had to reckon with the challenges faced by its neighbors that have continuously threatened its economic stability in the region.
The death of president, Kenyatta in 1978 came at a time when the Somalia- Ethiopian war was still on, Uganda was making attempts at annexing Kagera area of Tanzania. The then vice president, then took over powered and declared ‘Nyayoism’ often translated to mean following in the footsteps of the preceding president Kenyatta. Just like his predecessor, Moi adopted a neutral approach towards its neighbor’s conflicts and in stead focused on consolidating the countries position of power in the region. The re-emergence of the East African Union saw Rwanda and Burundi join the bandwagon.
While Somalia, Ethiopia and Sudan are not part of the East African Union, they have often been considered as part of East Africa geographically. Consequently their activities have an effect on the political balance in the region. The race for a balance of power has thus increased in the recent past with Kenya dominance increasingly being threatened. Rwanda emerging from a gristly genocide has in the recent past embarked on policies that are attractive to the investors hence its recent ranking as having the best rate of project execution in East Africa and the leading regions investment destination.
Its IT system is only rivaled by Kenya’s. Worth mentioning are also its new airports and radar systems bearing high sophistication. This advancement has often been cited as threatening to Kenya’s position as the economic hub in the region. Ethiopia’s infrastructural expansion has also been cited as meant to challenge Kenya’s position in the region. However, in reaction to this Kenya has currently embarked on a massive infrastructural expansion with roads being built more significantly in Nairobi and its environs.
Kenya is also undertaking enormous expansion of its main airport while the Kisumu airport is undergoing upgrading to an international status. While Tanzania has been unable to do much with its mineral rich resources to strengthen its position of power in the region, the same cannot be said about Uganda which has re-emerged strongly from dictatorship under Idi Amin. Its recent striking of oil has seen Kenya vehemently embarking on the search of the same in a bid to ensure that it is not overtaken by Uganda.
Additionally, Uganda has often been viewed as being militant and bearing expansionist ideals with its recent attempts being the attempts to acquire Migingo islands which allegedly belong to its neighbor, Kenya. Analysts have been quick to argue that this could be attempts by Uganda to test Kenya’s ability to respond to external threat. However, Kenya’s diplomatic approach to issues still leaves its neighbors wondering its standing militarily though bearing in mind that it probably still holds the regions military as well as economic power.
However, the recent striking of huge uranium deposits by Tanzania is likewise making the race for position of power in the region more complicated. The general summary of all these boils down to a race fro the regions economic leadership which is often accompanied by military leadership. Probably the realization of the common market has even catalyzed the race more as each country sees prospects of expanded markets for its produce. However, the milestone made by Kenya is still unrivalled and the expansion of the market would probably see professional services exportation from it.
This is a position that all indications show that Kenya is not yet ready to relinquish as witnessed by its heavy investment in oil exploration as well as other minerals. Recent reports indicate that Kenya has struck uranium too and is likewise close to striking oil. In terms of policies, the East African countries have often treated each other with caution more especially the other countries viewing of Kenya which has often been cited as being at an economic point of advantage. This has seen various regions countries employing protectionist policies against Kenyans who are considered aggressive economically.
Kenya has also embarked on key foreign relation aimed at securing its positions against the external threats from countries like Somalia which are constantly posing the threat by Al shaabab and piracy which has greatly affected the regions trade. Piracy has led to the Kenyan government having to review its policy on money laundering which could negatively affect the economy. This is due to the belief that the money collected in terms of Ransom is being laundered to the Kenyan market. This has arisen from the recent large unaccounted for balances announced by the Central Bank of Kenya.
In conclusion it’s worth mentioning that despite Kenya’s dominance in the region, its position is increasingly being threatened as most of the regional players attempt to shift the balance of power in their favor. The region however, remains under siege more so regarding the increasing violence in Somalia, and Sudan. Some analysts have argued that the race for economic power in the region could live it far ahead of other regions in Africa in the near future. Paper break down This paper considers the East African geographical region in respect the period immediately after independence, early 1970’s to the modern period.
Its appropriateness for study is based on the fact that it is currently re-emerging from a period of wars, civil strife and other forms of unrest that rocked it immediately after independence. These include the Uganda’s dictatorship under Idi Amin, Ethiopia and Somali wars, civil strife in Sudan and most memorable Rwandan Genocide. Out of this has come the increased realization of the regions potential and hence a race for economic power position to outdo Kenya which has remained relatively calm save for the recent 2008 post-election violence.
The region that has lot of current power plays to offer. The regions balance of power dynamics is depicted b the power balance plays as a result of the regions volatility and the diverse nature of policies outlined by individual states to consolidate their positions within the region. the countries in the region themselves face power shift dynamics either as a result of war or politics some thing that makes the region unique and possess two level of power balance dynamics namely; regional and national level dynamics.
The proposed hypothesis then can revolve around whether or not power parity can be a recipe for peace in the region which more effort being shifted towards attaining power equilibrium rather that engagement in conflicts. However, the balance of power may be threatened by the interstate protectionist views held by the member states towards each other and more so those considered economically strong. The paper thus takes an overall look into the region as an emerging field for power play in search of economic superiority citing various statesmen and women who have had a role in the situation.
Works Cited Aluanga, L. “The trouble with Kenyan Boarders” The East African Standard, 10/05/2009, 12 Onyango, C. O. Race to unseat Kenya from regions leadership, The East African 40(5) 2010:16, Oyugi, O. W. (2004) Politics and administration in East Africa, Nairobi; East African Educational Publishers, 2004, 313-319 Potholm, C. P. & Fredland, R. A. “Integration and disintegration in East Africa” Washington, D. C. : University Press of America, 1980 Segal, A. “The politics of land in East Africa,” Comparative Series, East African Journal, 1(287) 2007:1-22

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