Sunday May 22
The countries are developing along very different lines and in lanes for different speeds.
Differences in traditional left-right politics are difficult to pin down, even to identify; politics is more about persons and power than about parties and programs.
Corruption exists everywhere but is more entrenched in Kenya than in Rwanda and Ethiopia. South Sudan is too early to tell; in Uganda it is reported to be on the rise, as in Tanzania.
Integration ambitions are high, not least East African .The same in the past: The old East African Community did not break up because of lack of attempts or joint institutions. But because of lack of a shared vision, valid also domestically.
Somalia. As pessimistic as before. A society privatized beyond belief, including airstrips, ports and road blocks. Your Kalashnikov is your credit card. To taxation, terrorism and drugs we can now add another source of income; piracy. How establish a situation where Somalis powerful profit more on peace than on conflict? The neighbors must be coherent and consistent, including Eritrea. Can the Diaspora play a constructive role?
Ethiopia. Strong leadership. Rapid growth but still overwhelmingly poor. Will the regional Ethiopian “states” sit still in the growth boat? Next election must be a step towards openness and fairness. Seem to have decided to leave Eritrea to Eritreans, hoping for internal regime change.
South Sudan. To be born on July 9. Unclear leadership, at least untested. Rumors of internal cracks and conflicts. Start from below scratch; no human capacity. 900 Kenyans are working as Technical Assistants, all drivers are Ugandans or Ethiopians, all hotels etc owned by foreigners, maybe as cover for SPLA, but still. Oil reserves will last only a few years. South Sudan must diversify its economy, has to be agriculture, land galore but no farmers.
Kenya. Scars from the post-election-violence 2008 are still there, very little seems to have been done to heal. Now focus on elections, 15 months down the road. The expectation bar must be put higher than to avoid fraud and violence. The same players, sometimes in new games or dances, but still the same.
A new constitution is finally in place, the 100 days president Kibaki promised in 2002 became 2000. Now the question is as to choose between pest or cholera: Implement the constitution or not. It is an extremely costly constitution, layers of institutions with overlapping and/or unclear mandates. But of course the constitution is a major step forward, not least for its major endorsement by the people.
Decent growth but not more. Imbalances seem to persist, between those who have and those who don’t. The “Pulling apart” report that we the Swedes worked with in 2005 unveiled the enormous gaps, which explode in 2008, but it seems to have had no lasting political effect. New houses for the rich are sprouting, but Kibera is still Kibera - although he 2009 census claims that it never had the size that we all were told and believed, maybe "only" a quarter of it.
Corruption and impunity seems to continue to be the order of the day; the constant risk of Grand Coalitions like Kenya´s with no political checks.
Should be one of the “big five”, and be important to all the landlocked. Does not carry the expected weight regionally; “we are busy fighting each other, we have no time to be engaged regionally”.
Uganda. Musevenis trajectory is deeply tragic. Risk that the oil will be a curse? Will their finally be an end to LRA through joint efforts?
Rwanda. Moving fast. Do the people have a chance to follow? As always different and partly conflicting views, mainly from outside observers. New insurgents small and probably helpless. Fighting corruption and Doing Business, great improvements. Modernization has to reach also the modern sector; a radically new media law might be a sign of that. Kagame has six years to go, he will utilize them but will not try to manipulate the constitution to stay on beyond that, that is one thing I am sure of.
What are the effects on East Africa of the developments in North Africa?
North African revolt is not about political ideology, it is about Freedom and Frustration. Absence of Freedom or democratic space, Frustration caused by unemployment and corruption. In East Africa we could add Fuel and Food.
In Ethiopia and Rwanda the crisis was handled smoothly through tax reductions, In South Sudan no one has noticed, yet, they are waiting for the North to tremble. In Kenya, the normal happened; chaos, accusations, questions in parliament, probably corruption, in the end no one knows. In Uganda, it became a fiasco for the Museveni regime, a sign of the lack of democratic space that would allow demonstrations and open up for dialogue.
The way the crisis was handled illustrates the different political cultures – and the maturity of the leaders