Kenyans Mixed About East African Super-State

by Magali Rheault and Bob Tortora

Forty-one percent support integrating with other nations to form one country

WASHINGTON, D.C. -- Climbing Mount Kilimanjaro is an easier feat than creating a one-country state in East Africa. The dream of regional unification originated more than 40 years ago, when Tanzania's Julius Nyerere, Kenya's Jomo Kenyatta, and Uganda's Milton Obote articulated their vision for an East African federation. In 1967, the East African Community (EAC) was established as a framework for economic cooperation among the three countries. The original EAC dissolved 10 years later because of ideological differences among the national leaders, but rekindled efforts to integrate the three countries led to the creation of the current EAC in 1999. In 2007, Burundi and Rwanda joined the EAC.

Recently, the EAC developed an ambitious program that includes the establishment of a common market, monetary union, and political federation for the original three member states. Such an integration process would create a "super-state under a single political authority" by 2013. According to the EAC, Kenyans, Tanzanians, and Ugandans have expressed overwhelming support "for the establishment of a Political Federation" in public opinion surveys.

The Gallup Poll teamed with Research Path Associates, a market research company based in Nairobi, to conduct a major opinion poll in Kenya on this and other issues. Findings reveal that Kenyans are lukewarm about the prospect of the EAC member countries becoming one nation. When asked whether the East African Community countries should join together as one, 41% of Kenyans would like that to happen, while 29% would not like that to happen, and 30% have no opinion.

Demographic Differences

In addition to tepid approval among Kenyans overall, the poll reveals some interesting distinctions across gender, age, and education. Kenyan men (44%) and Kenyan women (38%) are essentially as likely to favor the one-country idea, but the latter are more likely to have no opinion (37%) than the former (22%) on this issue. Of all age groups, respondents between the ages of 19 and 45 are most likely to say that EAC countries should join together and become one country, with more than 4 in 10 respondents saying so. Respondents aged 15 to 18 (31%) and 46 and older (36%) are the least likely to favor unification. Those 46 and older are most likely to have no opinion.

Support for integration is highest among respondents with higher levels of education. Fifty-two percent of Kenyans with at least a secondary education believe the EAC countries should become one nation, while 41% of respondents with some primary education and 35% of those with no formal education say the same. However, 56% of respondents who have no formal education say they don't know or otherwise fail to offer a response. Similarly, illiterate respondents are more than twice as likely (60%) as literate respondents (23%) to have no opinion, which points to a need to communicate the objectives of the one-country project to Kenyans with little or no education.

Survey Methods

Results are based on face-to-face interviews with 1,000 adults in Kenya in May 2007, aged 15 and older. For results based on the total sample of national adults, one can say with 95% confidence that the maximum margin of sampling error is ±5 percentage points. In addition to sampling error, question wording and practical difficulties in conducting surveys can introduce error or bias into the findings of public opinion polls.

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