Why did regional integration fail in East Africa in the 1970s? A historical explanation.

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Seminar Date
August 14, 2013
The inauguration of the East African Community (EAC) in 2001 as an intergovernmental organisation brought the subject of regional integration in East Africa back in the lime-light. While this was correctly deemed a commendable move which showed the dexterity of the East African political leadership, the incident simultaneously invoked the pertinent question: why did the first EAC that was established in 1967 collapse in 1977? A secondary question could be phrased thus: how will the current organisation survive? This paper addresses the first question from a historical perspective and also gives pointers as to how the secondary question could be answered. To achieve this goal, the paper draws from archival sources and other source types to piece together a concrete explanation for the demise of the first EAC. Among the sources used are parliamentary debates which took place in the House of Commons and House of Lords in Britain, debates which took place in the East Africa Legislative Assembly, as well as debates which took place in the national parliaments of Kenya, Uganda and Tanganyika (Tanzania). Secondary sources in the form of books, journal articles and newspaper articles are also used to augment the sources listed above. The key argument made in the paper is that the reasons for the eventual collapse of the first EAC can be traced back to the social, political and economic situations under which the organisation was established. Importantly, the paper concludes that a confluence of factors should be blamed for the demise of this organisation and that agency cannot be confined to either British or East African role-players. On the contrary, actors from each constituency individually and collectively contributed to the eventual collapse of the EAC. The paper concludes by making recommendations on how the current organisation could evade some of the earlier hurdles.
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