Trend Monitoring Report: East Africa, fluid boundaries?

Africa has over 160 boundaries, which enclose some 53 independent countries. Between 1990 and 2010, the world witnessed the birth of 16 new countries mostly out of the former USSR, Yugoslavia and Czechoslovakia including the creation of a united Germany. In his opening address at the Mo Ibrahim Foundation Forum on Regional Economic Integration held in Mauritius on November 21,2010, the Chairman of the African Union Commission, Jean Ping, noted that Africa had over 160 boundaries, which enclose some 53 independent countries. Between 1990 and 2010, the world witnessed the birth of 16 new countries mostly out of the former USSR, Yugoslavia and Czechoslovakia  including the creation of a united Germany.

The GHEA region created one new country Eritrea, which separated from Ethiopia in 1994. Somalia separated into three separate units of Puntland, Somaliland and the Somali Republic (southern Somalia). A new country, South Sudan, may be born in six months. There are signs of an increasing push for self-determination and autonomy in the region, which are drowned out by the megaphone from central government authorities keen to maintain the territorial integrity of states whose boundaries were inherited from colonial times and reflect the outcome of the Berlin Conference of 1885.

This newsletter looks for these signs and highlights how they are manifested, examines what might be informing them and explores their implications for the shape of the region's boundaries in the coming decades. It asks what, if any, are the clues that point to a re-thinking of GHEA's colonial boundaries? Are countries headed towards more fragmentation or tighter integration? What do these trends imply for regionalintegration efforts, anchored around the EAC process? How might the poor and vulnerable populations be affected by the renegotiation of both intra and inter-state boundaries?

The search for clues starts with a fairly lengthy look at Tanzania, long held as a bastion of national cohesion in the region. It then turns to Uganda where the debate between federalists and unitarists is a feature of the campaigns leading up to the February 2011 elections. The exploration of DR Congo revolves around the question of whether the country is simply too big to stay united in the coming decade. In Kenya, three things merit comment, all driven by the new constitution that is strongly devolutionary. Finally, Ethiopia's issues with the Ogaden secessionists are briefly examined to see how that country and its strongly federal set-up is addressing its boundary challenges. We omit a discussion of Sudan in this newsletter for two reasons. First, the situation obtaining on the ground with respect to the anticipated referendum in South Sudan remains very fluid and is prone to a large amount of speculative commentary. Secondly, we thought it would be more insightful to explore the issue after the referendum has taken place and to discern the implications of the outcome and Khartoum's reaction to it.

Read the full report

  • In this issue:
  • The United republic of Tanzania...but for how much longer?
  • An Interview with Iddi Simba
  • Uganda: From cultural to political federalism?
  • The DRC: Too big to stay united?
  • Kenya's Constitution and the devolution of Power
  • Ethiopia: A federal constitution with an explicit exit clause
  • Insight an Foresight

 

Photo: AMW