East Africa

JOMO KENYATTA, leader of the Mau Mau rebellion in Kenya and symbol of African nationalism, was given his freedom last August after seven years of imprisonment and two years of confinement. At an elaborate reception for him late in October, most of the leaders of east and central Africa turned up to greet him, and hopes were revived that 1962 might see the launching of a new nation of 22 million people on the east flank of the continent, balancing Nigeria on the west.

In such a federation, 10 percent of the population of Africa, living in Kenya, Tanganyika, and Uganda, would emerge as a unit of significant size in African and world affairs. When he announced his invitation to Kenyatta to come to Dar es Salaam, then Prime Minister of Tanganyika Julius Nyerere declared: “We want people, both here and abroad, to know that East Africa is one country, and if Jomo comes, we shall receive him as the leader of East Africa, not as a Kikuyu.”

According to Gordon Lewanika, a relative of the Barotse royal house and a federal MP in Rhodesia, the white settlers should recognize that a tribe is a nation-state in embryo. But most nationalist leaders reject this doctrine. There are 120 tribes in Tanganyika alone, and it would be hopeless to base a modern political society on such fragmentation.

At the other extreme, Dr. Nkrumah’s notion of one African state spanning the whole continent appears equally unpromising. Yet at present there is nothing in between except the artificial boundaries established by European diplomats in last century’s big carve-up of Africa. The Tanganyika-Kenya boundary is simply a diagonal line running from the Indian Ocean to Lake Victoria, with a nodule in the middle to include all of Mount Kilimanjaro in Tanganyika. It separated the British from the German zones of East Africa; what now appears to Africans as a humiliatingly cool performance by imperialists was, and in a sense still is, regarded in Europe as a set piece in civilized diplomacy and the enlightened removal of cause of war.

As for Kenya, it was originally treated by the British as important less for its own sake than as the route to Uganda, whose temperate climate (astonishing for a country lying on the equator), heavy and even rainfall, and sophisticated political structure offered the most hopeful prospects of colonial development. Indeed, when the protectorate was first proclaimed, Uganda included the whole of the western part of Kenya; the boundary was shifted later for administrative convenience.

Ethnic conflicts

These boundaries take no account of ethnic limits. The Masai wander about nomadically over large stretches of land on both sides of the Kenya-Tanganyika line; the Samia, one of the Baluhya group of tribes, spread over from Uganda into Kenya and, with federalism in the air, are busy negotiating their own merger, paying respect no longer to the white man’s frontier. Since the end of World War I, when Tanganyika was confiscated from Germany and transferred to Britain as a mandate, all three territories have had the same colonial overlord, and at a time when a Common Market is a fashionable prelude to political federation, they enjoy the advantage of having had one for the last fourteen years.

East Africa must now go forward toward nationhood or backward into separatism. The administrative union which bound its three territories together, deriving as it did from a common subordination to Whitehall, could not long survive the emergence of three independent governments pulling in different directions. Some ol the changes that were made were negotiated to take into account Tanganyika’s independence, which was celebrated on December 9. Political triumvirs — the Prime Minister of Tanganyika and the senior elected ministers of Kenya and Uganda — have replaced the governors at the top, and subordinate triumvirates of ministers control the High Commission’s various departments. But this is obvious patchwork to cover a transition.

As far as the small elite of educated Africans is concerned, the frontiers within East Africa scarcely exist. This is partly because of the very shortage of local educational opportunities. A high percentage of the bright young politicians in all three territories went to Makerere University, in Kampala, Uganda; they know one another well, are fellow members of the small aristocracy of intellect, and feel one another to be in no sense foreigners. However, at die other end of the scale, the first reaction of most tribesmen in the reserves at the news of coming release from British rule is that this will be the occasion for chasing out members of other tribes from their territory.

Even in peaceful Tanganyika, there is evidence of this instinct stirring. Whenever members of the more vigorous and Westernized tribes have come into areas where the ethnic majority is more backward, there is a desire to eject the alien African. This is most pronounced in Kenya, where Bantu, Nilotic, and Nilo-Hamitic tribes are uncomfortably bunched together. Masai elders assembled at Ngong have called for the deportation of “Kikuyus and members of other undesirable tribes" from their reserve; the Kipsigis of Kericho make everyone nervous by holding practice rallies with their spears, drums, and bows and arrows to persuade the Luo workers on the big tea estates to go away.

The religions issue

In Uganda, by contrast, the threat to civil order is more of a feudal nature. The nineteenth-century Western explorers and missionaries, beginning with Stanley, uncovered in Baganda and Bunyoro a remarkable pair of intricate medieval state systems. In a bewildering series of moves at the end of the century, the odd assortment of European and Arab missionaries and gunrunners who had broken the seal of these mysterious kingdoms participated in a three-sided religious war inside Baganda, involving Catholic, Protestant, and Muslim parties, while the British also helped the Baganda conquer territory from Bunyoro.

The recession of British colonialism is uncovering these sixty-year-old fissures. Further, the legacy of the missionary wars has been a persistent and tiresome involvement of religion in Uganda politics, which is unusual in Africa. The Democratic Party, whose chairman, Benedicto Kiwanuka, became Uganda’s first Prime Minister in March, is almost entirely based on Catholic support. The Uganda National Congress, on the other hand, is largely Protestant. The religious issue has therefore played a prominent part in elections.

The attitude of the British colonial administration toward nationalist political parties has lacked consistency over the years. Until the recent speedup of the trend toward independence, the administrative instinct lias been to harass if not actually to suppress the party system. This is understandable, since oppositional politics, being by its nature agitative and irreverent, does not go well with paternalism.

The new orthodoxy is that, since African colonies are heading speedily toward what is still, rather faintly, expected to be a Westminsterstyle democracy, it is high time that political parties were formed to operate it. The political party, which was such a short time ago so unrespectable, is now expected by policy makers, both African and British, to carry an exceedingly portentous load — to be the conscious instrument of social realignment, without which political independence might land East Africa in Congolike anarchy. Only the party, it is held, can cut across tribal limits and bind people’s emotions to national leaders and objectives.

Tanganyika’s mass party

In some ways, Tanganyika has come up with the ideal solution for, at any rate, the early days of independence. TANU (Tanganyika African National Union), Julius Nyerere’s creation, is organized nontribally; while it was growing up it had to compete against other parties, which were then given a chance, but at the elections it captured all the seats. This does not preclude lively debating in the Assembly.

Nyerere’s essentially democratic, though somewhat schoolmasterly, temperament and personal modesty are reassuring. When his policy of offering Tanganyika citizenship to Commonwealth citizens with five years’ residence was sharply attacked as too liberal, he invited the Assembly to take a free vote without party discipline and offered to resign if defeated. The administration has a tendency to treat members of the rather pathetic opposition party, the African National Congress, distantly, as ignorant nobodies; and, given TANU’s monopoly on elected office, it might seem a little superfluous for Rashidi Kawawa, who succeeded Nyerere as Prime Minister in January, to threaten to ban any political party that attempts to build itself up on a religious basis.

In principle, the British favor the two-party system, but TANU’s performance displays the merits of the well-organized mass party as a nation builder without the awful embarrassment to the Commonwealth in general of Nkrumah’s authoritarian style of leadership. Tanganyika is now planning to become a republic by the end of the year, but is expected to hold a general election before changing its status. Nyerere meanwhile is devoting himself to work as a national political leader.

Two-party system in Uganda

Uganda has been singularly bereft of party politicians until recently, a condition which most colonial administrators would consider blessed but which the Uganda administration has been trying desperately to remedy. The Baganda, the most prominent tribe, have remained obstinately monarchist in this democratic age, responsive for the most part to their sovereign’s distaste for the formation of political parties and his objection to remaining part of a Uganda state, let alone an East African federation, once the British depart.

Since independence for the feudal kingdom of Baganda would reproduce the Katanga situation by cutting out of the territory as a whole its principal national assets, including the cities of Kampala and Entebbe, the British problem has been to find some way of integrating this kingdom and three other less obstreperous monarchies with the rest of Uganda.

The British first tried the direct approach by deporting the Kabaka (King) of Baganda and telling his people to get moving with democratic elections. But the Baganda dug their toes in, the Kabaka returned (whereupon everyone in sight groveled on his belly, as is the custom), and Mr. Macleod played the game differently by nurturing the fragile flame of politics in the rest of Uganda, so that in future there would be nationalist leaders with an electoral mandate behind them to take on the monarchists.

Party politics has done the trick. The holding of an election last year, even though it was boycotted by the Kabaka, with the result that only 3 percent of the electorate voted in the Bagandan constituencies, produced two parties of approximately even strength, led by men who entered politics only in the last three or four years, expressly to fill the vacuum in leadership.

What will Kenya do?

Is Kenya going to follow the oneparty pattern of Tanganyika, the two-party pattern of Uganda, or some variant of its own? Colonywide political parties were, for the first time since the Mau Man emergency, permitted at the beginning of 1960. There was very little of substance dividing KANU (Kenya African National Union) from KADU (Kenya African Democratic Union). But they were divided on ways and means: whether there should be two parties or one; or if unity was indispensable for independence, whether this should take the form of a party merger or a coalition in which both parties retained their separate structures.

KANU was intended from the outset to be Kenya’s equivalent of Nyerere’s TANU. It was to be a mass party, establishing a sense of Kenyan nationhood, declaring war on tribalism as much as on colonialism. Even references to tribal designations were discouraged.

The party so far has been quite appallingly badly organized. This looks like a paradox when one sees that throughout this period the general secretary has been the most dynamic, hard-working, and efficient man in Kenyan politics — Tom Mboya. But, unfortunately, this has been just the trouble. Mboya, a Luo, had already, before taking this office, succeeded in antagonizing both the leading Kikuyu politicians and the most prominent politician of his own tribe, Oginga Odinga, by the very forcefulness and ingenuity of his youthful ambition and his habit of making decisions and announcing them without consulting his colleagues.

Tom Mboya’s role

The confusion within the party at the time of the last election was deplorable, several seats being lost because of the multiplicity of KANU candidates competing against each other. Mboya, the general secretary of the party and its official candidate, was opposed in his own constituency by the party’s branch chairman and by its vice president, and every effort has been made then and since to head off any move Mboya might make, however legitimately within the proper sphere of his party office, to get a grasp on the machinery of the party.

The result has been that Mboya has devoted himself to his many other jobs, such as running the Kenya Federation of Labor, managing the student airlift to America, attending a fantastic number of international conferences, which keeps him out of Kenya a good bit of the time, leading the parliamentary opposition to the present government, handling the constitutional negotiations, and issuing press statements. Now that KANU has Kenyatta as President, it may itself project an effectively nontribalistic image.

Provided Kenya can get through the next few months without disaster, there is no good reason why it should not catch up with Uganda, which will attain complete independence in October.

If Zanzibar and Somalia could be added as founder members, this would be the happiest way to resolve two other obstacles to Kenya’s progress — Zanzibar’s reversionary claim to the ten-mile-wide British protectorate along Kenya’s coastline (including the port of Mombasa, which is tiie only outlet for Uganda’s exports, as well as being the gateway to Kenya), and the wish of the nomadic inhabitants of Kenya’s vast, barren Northern Province to be united with their ethnic brothers in the Somali republic.