Can EAC do an ECOWAS? 

In 1978, Tanzania Peoples Defense Force (TPDF) invaded Uganda after the then Uganda President Idi Amin who had taken over power in Uganda through a coup that removed Milton Obote from Power invaded Tanzania on October 27, 1978 thereby annexing the Kagera Salient. Uganda had then accused Tanzania of harboring Ugandan exiles in Tanzania who invaded Uganda on 17 September 1972 with an intention to remove Amin from Power.  

While declaring war on November 2, 1978 at the Diamond Jubilee Hall in Dar-es-salaam Tanzania, the then Tanzania President Julius Nyerere said “Sababu za kumpiga Amin tunazo, nia tunayo, na uwezo tunao” (We have the reasons to hit Amin, we have the ability to hit him and we have the determination to hit him). The TPDF pushed back the Uganda Forces and went ahead to remove Amin from power and restoring Obote to power. This was a big victory and a strong statement against capturing power through coups.

First forward in 2007, after the disputed Presidential elections in Kenya in which the incumbent President Mwai Kibaki was declared winner a result that was disputed by the then Opposition Leader Raila Odinga, the country descended into chaos ending up displacing many people from their homes and over 1000 deaths. There are claims that the Uganda President Yoweri Museveni sent Uganda People’s Defense Force (UPDF) to shore up Mwai Kibaki succeeding in maintaining Kibaki in power despite the fact that his election was disputed.

Unlike the Tanzania invasion of Uganda in 1978 in which dictator Amin who came into power through a coup, the Yoweri Museveni action in Kenya shored up a leadership that was accused of rigging elections to remain in power.

Burundi is currently having a crisis after the incumbent President Nkurunziza changed the Constitution removing term limits a move that plunged the country into chaos displacing thousands and more people dead. South Sudan is also facing a crisis that is related to elections in which President Salva Kiir is said to be plotting to stay in power for life a move that has plunged the country into chaos. In the two cases, President Museveni is being accused of supporting both Nkurunziza and Kiir a move that is seen as an affront against the will of the people.

Unlike in the Gambian case in which the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) intervened to pressurize former President Yahya Jammeh to leave power for the democratically elected Adama Barrow, the East African Community (EAC) has been silent in cases where dictators have refused to leave power and have instead provided tacit support to the dictators refusing to leave power.

With the Kenyan election in August already showing signs of yielding a contested result with claims by the opposition that the government is planning to rig the results, talks of the incumbent refusing to accept the results and leave power should opposition win the polls, many are beginning to ask what the EAC will do should that be the case. 

Can Tanzania play the role Senegal played in pushing Jammeh out by pressurizing the incumbent to leave power? Can EAC tell the incumbent that enough is enough? Can EAC do an ECOWAS in such situation?


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