Kalonzo Musyoka, co-leader of Kenya’s opposition coalition NASA, caused quite a stir on social media when, presiding over a university graduation ceremony in Uganda, he urged that President Yoweri Museveni be named the East African Community’s first president.
Many East Africans thought Kalonzo had lost his marbles; in Kenya in particular, where presidential term limits are still observed, and many despise Museveni as a throwback from a bygone era of presidents for life, people were particularly appalled.
Museveni will soon clock 33 years in office since seizing power at the head of a victorious rebel army in 1986.
He oversaw the amendment of the constitution in 2005 to scrap presidential term limits, and earlier this year put through another change to remove the 75-year upper age limit for candidates for the presidency, paving the way for him to chase 40 years in State House in the 2021 election.
Faced with an increasingly restless nation, Museveni has resorted to old-fashioned methods to keep his hold on power – go hammer and tongs at the opposition, beat and jail demonstrators.
Kalonzo is right in saying that Museveni is a staunch East Africanist, though he often likes to pick and choose which bits of the regional integration project to take on board. Thus his government has not thrown the doors open for all East Africans to work freely in Uganda, falling way behind both Kenya and late-EAC entrant Rwanda.
Part of that is that Museveni, philosophically, believes that given Africa’s history of arbitrary borders, economic integration should follow political union, and therefore the current EAC is a mongrel that he is happy to live with, mostly because it is the path to political federation.
Kalonzo’s statement didn’t come out of the blue. It’s likely to be a trial balloon, to see how the idea will go down, because it has been whispered in some corridors in East Africa’s capitals that this may possibly be the way to persuade Museveni to get off Uganda’s back after