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An East African problem of thirty years ago: the Kampala Agreement.

DIFFICULTIES arising from tribal animosities and conflicts are not peculiar to Africa, nor are they necessarily longer-lasting there, as the current wars in the Balkans demonstrate on both counts. They do however exacerbate attempts to develop in Africa, as elsewhere, political systems which are both stable and tolerant of rational dissent, and the present troubles in Kenya illustrate this as well as any. A good example which has long run its course is the attempt which was made thirty years ago to systematise some form of regional co-operation between the three independent East African states of Uganda, Tanganyika (later Tanzania), and Kenya. This was embodied in a formal agreement signed on 29 April 1964 at Kampala, and generally known as the Kampala Agreement. Although there were at the time some reports in the East African Standard, very little has been published about the Kampala Agreement, and nothing about the course of negotiations. I was one of the principal Kenya officials, and drafted the final form of agreement; and this short account is taken from my notes made at the time.

The three states of Tanganyika, Uganda and Kenya, which achieved independence in that order, were then loosely associated in the East African Common Services Organisation (EACSO), the successor to the East African High Commission, itself a long way from being a federal organisation. During 1963 the ties that held EACSO together were becoming frayed, and after Kenya's independence in December 1963 they were in danger of breaking altogether.

EACSO handled a number of major common services. These were Income Tax and Customs, Railways and Harbours, Posts and Telegraphs, Airways and Air Traffic Control, a variety of research bodies, and industrial licensing. Usually discussed within the EACSO context but actually outside its organisation were the East African Currency Board, and annual meetings of Finance Ministers at which they discussed and as far as possible adjusted their national budgets. The last item, the annual budget discussions, was always a source of potential conflict. For some time Tanganyika had had a favourable balance of trade outside the East African complex, but an unfavourable one within it because so many services and goods were supplied by Uganda and Kenya. On the other hand within EACSO itself Tanganyika did fairly well and especially so from the management of Railways and Harbours, and Posts and Telegraphs, which provided Tanganyika with important services at the expense of Uganda and Kenya.

The underlying causes of the breakdown were complex. Tanganyika, even without the burden of Zanzibar with which it merged in the course of the Kampala Agreement negotiations, had difficult development problems. It was a large country with a scattered population and poor transport, and a great deal of it was covered with both animal and human tsetse fly. A cash economy had scarcely begun to develop, educational standards were low, and the non-African population which might have provided a channel for capital investments was tiny. Compared with Uganda and Kenya it was an undeveloped country. This was made worse by an incoherent but very common feeling among Tanganyikans that Uganda and Kenya had reaped great benefits from non-Africans and must therefore have un-African colonialist regimes which were their enemies. This was repeated in one form or another again and again during the negotiations; and although Nyerere, face to face with Kenyatta, never found himself able to repeat it in the presence of the living symbol of African nationalism, his Ministers and officials had no such qualms when facing the racially mixed teams from Uganda and Kenya. In a way the Tanganyikan feelings were not wholly unreasonable, at least to the extent that Uganda and Kenya, especially Kenya, had developed economies which seemed to be not radically different from the economies of any developed non-communist country. Kenya was particularly offensive to the 'negritude' theorists because not only had it been able to develop commercially and industrially on a free-enterprise base with little direct government participation, but Nairobi had unmistakably become the most attractive centre in East Africa for overseas, and capitalist, investment.

The Tanganyikan discontents came into the open in early 1964, when Nyerere was persuaded that when announcing a five-year development plan, scheduled for 12 May 1964, he should also announce some rearrangement of EACSO. What then happened was that a meeting of the Finance Ministers at Entebbe in February 1964 was without warning presented with an ultimatum. They could either maintain the common market on Tanganyika's terms, which included the imposition of tariffs against Ugandan and Kenyan goods with the cost of collecting the dues to be wholly borne by Uganda and Kenya, or Tanganyika would dissolve the association. The threat of dissolution was, however, somewhat undermined by the statement that if dissolution was to be the answer they nevertheless expected the Railways and Harbours, and the Posts and Telegraphs, arrangements to be continued on their existing basis, favourable to Tanganyika.

There was unfortunately no record of this meeting, but although Nyerere subsequently said this was not what was really meant, other ministers later restated the Tanganyikan position in more or less those terms. Moreover, at a meeting of the Heads of State on the 10th and 11th of April it became clear that this, confused though it might be, was what had in fact been proposed. The decision of the Heads of State was that there should be an Emergency Committee consisting of the three Ministers of Finance and the three Ministers of Trade, plus their officials; and that this Committee should produce an agreed solution to the problem by 30th April 1964 so that Nyerere could go ahead with his five-year plan as scheduled.

On top of all the other problems was the fact that apart from one session when Tom Mboya, a Luo, was present the Africans on the Kenya team were all Kikuyu, and for most of the time were led by Gikonyo Kiano, the politically weak Kikuyu Minister for Commerce and Industry. The stereotypical Kikuyu, and it was a stereotype widely recognised inside and outside Kenya, combined above average ability with unpuncturable conceit and tactlessness. Kiano, for example, as soon as whoever was chairing a meeting formally opened it, would take out his newspaper, ostentatiously spread it across the table and begin to read it. Mwai Kibaki, then his Ministerial partner as a junior Minister in the Treasury (and now leader of the Democratic Party in Kenya), sitting alongside him would similarly take out his paper and the two would exchange comments and eventually papers as the meeting progressed, regardless of what was going on and of the angry looks of the other Ministers. When they did take part in the discussions it was usually because one or the other had caught a word which took their interest, often misunderstanding it because they had not been listening; or it was because they had become bored and after staring round and exchanging a few comments in Kikuyu had simply decided to butt in and make their presence felt.

In my experience most Africans have an acute sense of the social graces and what might be called 'proper behaviour', and the general attitudes and habits of the Kikuyu were resented. Certainly to the Ugandans and Tanganyikans at these meetings the Kikuyu members were objects of intense dislike. At one point, after Kiano had shouted a reproof at me across the table in Kikuyu, followed by a translation for the benefit of the non-Kikuyu, I had a tactful message relayed from Kahama, the Tanganyikan Minister for Trade, that he was holding his temper with difficulty and would be very happy if he never heard, or met, a Kikuyu again.

The first meeting of the Emergency Committee was held in Dar-es-Salaam and the Ministers present were Bomani and Kahama for Tanganyika, Sempa and Mayanja-Nkangi for Uganda, and Gichuru and Kiano, and for a couple of days Mboya, for Kenya. Mboya did not come to Kampala for the second series of meetings, and nor did Gichuru, who was represented by Mwai Kibaki, his junior Minister at the Treasury. The Kenya team at Kampala was therefore led by Kiano. After Mboya the Kenya team of officials, because of Kiano's inadequacy, tended to work through the Ugandan officials, putting in supporting fire or extra briefings as necessary.

I had been one of the few officials, and the only one on the Kenya team, present when Kenyatta and his immediate associates briefed the Kenya Ministerial team and was uneasily aware of the fact that, once hard negotiations got under way at Kampala, Kiano and Kibaki were ignoring the major points emphasised by Kenyatta. I drew Kiano's attention to this in written notes as well as orally, but the only reply he ever made was that he had a tactical plan and I was not to worry. In the end I acted independently and put the points in the formal draft agreement as an appendix, to Kiano's undisguised irritation; but they were later accepted not only by Kenyatta but also by Nyerere and Obote. Exactly what game Kiano thought he was playing I could never make out, but I had a strong suspicion he was merely trying to score off Mboya, who had always stressed the importance of regional co-operation. Mboya was one of the few non-Kikuyu in Kenyatta's Cabinet, and Kiano was probably not alone in thinking that any action, no matter how short-sighted or stupid, was worthwhile if it undermined something Mboya wanted. To be fair to Kiano, there was an element of the same attitude in Kenyatta, but he generally had enough political sense to recognise this should not be pushed too far.

Once Kenyatta had achieved political power, his most noticeable characteristic was the desire to retain it unchallenged, but he still carried other, life-long, and conflicting objectives; first, to secure and maintain his personal domination of the Kikuyu; second, to secure domination by the Kikuyu within Kenya; third, to return to an idealised past with the comforts of the extended family and the myths of innocent simplicity; and fourth, to build a modern African society with all the complications, balances and rewards entailed by this. It was, after all, his ability to present different objectives to different audiences, and to retain all of them through a long life, that had got him where he was. Most of the politicians in the area followed a similar line, adjusted according to tribe, but generally less successfully.

The major exception to this was Tom Mboya, the ablest, most clear-minded, and most decisive of the East African politicians, and also the least tribal in his attitudes. If he had been in Britain and white he would have been at the very least an able backbencher, and more probably a frontbencher; in Kenya, and to many Africans, he was either a puzzling anomaly or a de-Africanised enemy, and it was in the latter role that many Kikuyu saw him. Nevertheless he was much too able to be kept down or pushed to one side, and perhaps the most surprising thing about his career is that it was as long as five years after independence before he was assassinated by a Kikuyu.

All the people in the negotiations, but especially the Africans, were conscious of the Mau Mau background to Kenyan politics. In the early 1960s the population of Kenya was about six million, about four per cent of them being a very mixed bag of non-Africans. The 96 per cent of Africans were also very mixed, split between about 80 'tribes'. Of these the Kikuyu and their associates the Embu and Meru amounted to about 1.5 million, or 26 per cent. The next biggest group was the Luo, with about half the Kikuyu-Embu-Meru total. This meant there were more than four million Africans who owed no allegiance to the Kikuyu.

Since 1892 there had been an administration of sorts in what was called British East Africa, but Kenya was not delineated, and named as Kenya, until July 1920. It was also in 1920 that Harry Thuku formed the Young Kikuyu Association. The often offensive and oppressive behaviour of some Europeans led to riots in Nairobi in 1922, headed by Thuku and his Association. Although motives and intentions are difficult to discern at a distance of seventy years, it looks to me as though Thuku, despite his tribal base, was mounting an authentic protest against Europeans as such, whereas Kenyatta, who came into prominence in 1932 and soon tangled with Thuku, set himself the task of controlling the Kikuyu before taking on the intruding Europeans. On the whole the statistics of Mau Mau violence bear this out. According to the official Corfield Report of 1960, between the declaration of an Emergency in October 1952 and 30th June 1959 when it effectively ended, there were 1,819 non-Mau Mau African civilians killed, almost all of them Kikuyu, and 978 wounded; and only 32 Europeans and 26 Asians killed, and 26 and 36 respectively wounded. Against this there were 11,503 Mau Mau killed but only 1,035 wounded (a shoot to kill policy if ever there was one), with 167 security forces killed and 1,582 wounded. It had all the hallmarks of a civil war within the Kikuyu in which the administration of mainly European outsiders took the side of the conservatives and mowed down the dissidents. In the end it petered out because it was too hopelessly one sided; but Kenyatta nevertheless came to the top because, imprisoned by the administration, he survived with his authority in the Kikuyu relatively intact and his reputation among non-Kikuyu Africans on the whole enhanced despite eight years of useless slaughter.

The negotiations, especially at Kampala, were often confused and muddled, and sometimes verged on farce. The Tanganyikan Ministers all along wanted to go their own way in isolation without losing the advantages of not being in isolation; the Ugandan Ministers were more conscious than the others of their own need for regional co-operation; the Kenyan Ministers (once Mboya had left) had the strongest hand and should have been able to steer the talks to a workable compromise, but made little attempt to conceal their contempt either for the other Ministers or for the idea of agreement in the first place; and the three sets of officials were generally united in making increasingly desperate attempts to stitch together an agreement which might conceivably be workable and also just about acceptable to the Governments standing behind their Ministers.

The Dar-es-Salaam talks focused attention on trade imbalances within the East African common market, and the Kampala talks tried to set up a system in which these could progressively be reduced. The agreement finally reached listed ways of doing it, including extending the existing system of industrial licensing, the use of quotas and suspended quotas, and bringing pressure to bear on existing major industries with inter-territorial connections and sales to develop units within deficit countries, i.e. for the most part within Tanganyika. Appendix Three, on which Kenyatta and his Cabinet had been insistent and which Kiano wanted to ignore, made Kenya's agreement to all this subject to the continuation of the East African common market, to the continuation of the EACSO common services, and to the continuation of a common currency. These points were essential to Kenya because she was inevitably the major loser if trade imbalances were adjusted in favour of Tanganyika, and the maintenance of regional co-operation provided the only hope for future development.

The three Governments ratified the Agreement, but the scheme slowly fell apart. Privately owned commerce and industry has an obligation to survive, and survival lies generally in seizing short-term advantages and opportunities; and these were not to be found in Tanganyika but in Kenya and, to a lesser extent, in Uganda. Politicians in all the territories, as elsewhere, had a similar short-term interest in survival and those in Kenya in particular were unable, or unwilling, to apply the considerable pressures needed to keep their commercial and industrial interests within the spirit of the system. Almost from the start Tanganyika showed a tendency to take unilateral action in, for example, the imposition of import controls, and later simply announced the creation of a separate currency. From that point onwards regional co-operation was effectively doomed, and the overthrow of Obote and the emergence of Idi Amin in Uganda ended all such ideas. A pity -- the ordinary people of East Africa deserved better of their leaders.

|S. F. Bailey served with the Kenya Government from 1956 to 1965, first in the Treasury, then in the Ministry of Works, and then in the Ministry of Commerce and Industry. He was Acting Permanent Secretary for Commerce and Industry for six months preceding independence in December 1963 and then reverted to Under Secretary. He was awarded a CBE in January 1965.~
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Author:Bailey, S.F.
Publication:Contemporary Review
Date:Apr 1, 1993
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