Which way? Confederation or federation?

Saturday November 23 2019

East African Community heads of state emerge from a meeting. The leaders are expected to strike a deal on political integration. FILE PHOTO | NMG


The East African Community member states may adopt a political confederation instead of a federation if views of experts mandated to steer the process is anything to go by.

Constitutional experts from across the region met in Kampala recently to push for the alternative political relationship of the six-member bloc.

The agenda for participants at the meeting was to consult and draft a confederation constitution.

That a confederation is a less demanding political union for the region became attractive for partner states that were uncomfortable with a political federation. Membership of a confederation is voluntary, while the membership in a federation is not.

Uganda’s President Yoweri Museveni, who attended the meeting as the nominee to guide the process, said the consultation and drafting of the confederation constitution should focus on the bigger picture of why East Africa needs to move progressively towards a political union.

“Besides economic integration, we need to look at the strategic security for the region,” President Museveni said.


The team of experts constituted an 18-member committee led by former Ugandan chief justice Benjamin Odoki and took into account the contribution of the stakeholders and the people in drafting a model confederation for the region.

Significant finances

According to EAC Secretary General Dr Liberat Mfumukeko, efforts to push forward the necessary political process towards a union requires significant finances, which are unavailable at the moment.

“We are still behind schedule because of finances,” Dr Mfumukeko told the experts. “This process is to cost us $4.8 million,” he said. He did not however clarify where the money would come from.

The constitutional committee has been mandated to enhance the awareness on the ongoing constitution making process for transforming the Community into a political confederation; obtain stakeholders views on their interest and key issues to inform the drafting of a model confederation constitution in line with the principle of people—centred regional community and prepare the public in general to give their input into the draft constitution once it is completed.

According to a brief being followed by the experts, public participation will involve ministries of EAC affairs in every partner states to conduct private and public consultations and a few selected regional consultations with stakeholders to gather views for inclusion in the final draft.

The panel also plans to rely on written submissions from members of the public including views shared on social media platforms like Twitter and Facebook.

The consultations will follow the recommendation of the 20th Ordinary Summit of Heads of State held on February 2019, where the leaders agreed that a draft be reviewed a year before it is submitted for signing.