The African State and the Informal Cross-Border Trade: An Analysis of the Kenya/Uganda Experience, 1962-2005
Mukani, Lilian Achieng
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At the time when there is enhanced social instability across the world, there is growing concern that the modern nation-state has failed to meet the obligations of its citizens. As an organizing tool of contemporary politics, the state faces overwhelming challenges, chief among which is its inability to unify its inhabitants around shared aspirations and desires. This study sets out to examine the main features of the modern state in Africa with a key focus on Kenya and Uganda. It examines how the key features of the modern states have led to the rise of Informal Cross Border Trade between Kenya and Uganda. It also assesses the socio-economic and political impact on the legitimacy of the Kenyan and Ugandan states. A fundamental question to answer is whether or not the flourishing informal trade between the two countries is a reflection of success or failure of the nation-states. The study revolves around three premises. It proposes the main features of the modern state in Africa with a key focus on Kenya and Uganda. It also assumes that the failure of the Kenyan and Ugandan states to manage the relations at the border has necessitated the rise of Informal Cross Border Trade. The study proposes that there is socio-economic and political impact on the legitimacy of the Kenyan and Ugandan states. From the theoretical standpoint, this study employs a duo perspective. It combines the Marxian theory of the state with that of the Corporatist practice of the state. According to Karl Marx, the state is not only an instrument of oppression, it is also parasitic because it feeds on the blood and sweat of its own citizens. On the other hand, Goran Hyden and Julius Nyang’oro share the view that the African state has a poor corporatist practice: this means that instead of asking the people what they would wish to be done for them by the state, the state in Africa arbitrarily determines what the people require and often gets everything wrong. Thus, this study uses the two theoretical formulations to demonstrate that not only have the Kenyan and Ugandan states been parasitic and dictatorial, but they have also failed to meet the desires and dreams of the people. As a result, the border communities in the two states have engaged in informal trade in order to promote localized nationalism and address the urgent needs hitherto ignored by their respective governments. Various methodological tools have been employed to collect data. Primary data was harnessed from field respondents on the operations of both the Kenyan and Ugandan states. Besides, secondary data was obtained from books, articles and journals that are readily available on the internet and local libraries. All the data has been subjected to the rigorous interrogation of the Marxian notion of state parasitism and essential elements of the theory of state corporation.