By Joachim Buwembo
Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta has of late been on Ugandan minds. A couple of weeks ago, he came to Kampala not on a state visit but to give a lecture on business — showing our youth how to make money in the East African Community context.
Then we saw his stolen escort limousine being recovered in Kampala. Then we heard that the ICC people are having difficulties proceeding with a case against him. Finally, we saw pictures of him in military fatigues.
The order of these events is significant. While our present leaders have heard the African liberation philosophy of “seek first the political kingdom and the rest shall come,” the head of state of East Africa’s largest economy seems to have started with the economic kingdom and the rest came to him.
One thing all the other four East African presidents have in common is a military background. In no particular order, Jakaya Kikwete was a colonel before joining politics.
Pierre Nkurunziza was a private who fought his way up the ladder. Paul Kagame fought for two different countries and captured power to stop the genocide. Yoweri Museveni is a decorated general who has planned, commanded and won wars.
East Africa’s fifth president, who was a teenager when his father died exactly 36 years ago, grew up in a business family and joined competitive politics expressly to prepare to lead the then ruling party in a general election. Now he is commander-in-chief.
There is a way a comparison of Uhuru Kenyatta and his four counterparts reflects on the countries they lead. Uganda’s army has done the most fighting in the region in recent years, probably followed by Rwanda’s and Burundi’s.
Uganda was the first to take its army into Somalia to implement the AU mission when no other African state was willing or ready, followed by Burundi, of all countries. Kenya took half a decade before it joined the fighting, after extreme provocation from Al Shabaab.
Ugandans helped Rwandans wage their four-year liberation war and helped the Congolese overthrow Mobutu’s kleptocracy. And of course Uganda did more than any other country to support the SPLA fight for the self-determination of South Sudan.
As Ugandans like to grumblingly say these days, their army does the fighting and Kenyans do the business. When Central African Republic stabilises, we shall grumble as Kenyan banks open shop in Bangui.
With Kenyan big business in South Sudan, when Juba flared up again last December one would have expected Kenya’s army to rush there to save the situation. Instead, it was Uganda that rushed in troops.
Regional specialisation seems to be taking root over fighting and big business, and members are making their pick. The way they are co-operating is encouraging, even as we ordinary fellows do not know the details.
Last week, when Ugandan security recovered Uhuru’s bulletproof BMW, they drove it so fast across the border to hand it to Kenyan security that the Ugandan peasants at the border did not even manage to see it.
NTV caught them saying they couldn’t even tell its make because they only saw dust as it flew past. Forget Nkrumah’s political kingdom — give me the economic kingdom anytime.