By John Oyuke
East Africa’s long search for a political Federation, the ultimate goal of the regional integration, has started taking shape.
East African Community (EAC) member States have broken new grounds with a proposal by a team of experts to adopt a new structure similar to Tanzanian model (Tanganyika/Zanzibar) headed by a single President ruling for a year.
The team has already held a retreat to consider a Zero Draft Model of the Structure and agreed to learn from experiences of the Tanganyika/Zanzibar Union.
Deputy Secretary General in charge of Political Federation Dr Julius Tangus Rotich disclosed that the draft Model of the federation Structure prescribes far-reaching measures towards addressing the fears of loss of sovereignty.
He said the political federation compliments economic integration and fortifies gains of the whole integration process.
“While prescribing measures towards addressing fears of loss of sovereignty, you must also consider, the positive aspect of pooled sovereignty,” Rotich told the experts who included the former Attorney General Amos Wako to the meeting in Mwanza, Tanzania.
The Political Federation is the ultimate goal of EAC integration as provided for under Article 5 (2) of the Treaty for Establishment of the East African Community signed on November 30, 1999 in Arusha, Tanzania.
The Treaty was signed by Presidents Daniel arap Moi of Kenya, Yoweri Museveni of Uganda and Benjamin Mkapa of Tanzania and entered into force on July 7, 2000 following ratification by the three Partner States.
Rwanda and Burundi acceded to the Treaty and became full Members of the Community with effect from July 1, 2007.
At a Special Summit held in Nairobi on August 27-29, 2004, the Heads of State expressed concern at the slow pace of integration.
They resolved to examine ways of expediting the process so that the ultimate goal of a Political Federation is achieved through a Fast Track Mechanism. The Summit set up the Committee on Fast Tracking the EAC Political Federation - dubbed the Wako Committee.
The committee was to examine ways to fast track the EAC political integration process, which carried out wide consultations and presented its Report at the 6th Summit Meeting on November 29, 2004.
Subsequently, the Extra-Ordinary Summit of Heads of State held in Dar es Salaam in May, 2005 directed the Council of Ministers to form National Consultative Mechanisms to collect the views of East Africans.
The Summit also established the position of the Deputy Secretary General for Fast Tracking the Political Federation process.
The two-day retreat of senior experts on development of the model structure agreed that the EAC model should be tailored in a way that answers to EAC context as well as identified Fears, Challenges and Concerns. The model should be simple enough to be articulated by both the ordinary citizens of East Africa and the Heads of State.
The experts noted that during the negotiations of the Federal Constitution, attention should be given to addressing the fears within the different competences of the Federal and Constituent States.
They noted that it was important to emphasise the historical background and key institutions and corporations that existed in the old community as strength to be built upon. They noted that the absence of strong supra-national institutions contributed to the disintegration of the first EAC. These institutions were critical to establishment of a strong foundation for a political federation.
On the Federal Presidency, the experts recommended providing for a transitional period during which the Presidency will be assumed rotationally on annual basis.
There was also the need to consider provision of a Presidential Council that brings together the Federal and Constituent State Presidents to ventilate on issues that relate to the Federal/Constituent State relationship.
In regard to transitional arrangements, the Experts felt that there was need for negotiating a Treaty establishing the Federation, in line with the Vienna Conventions relating to assumption of obligations and responsibilities, which would be deposited with international organisations.
There was also the need to learn from the experiences of the Tanganyika/Zanzibar Union, taking stock of lessons from other types of Federations be they voluntary or forced and those that have since collapsed.
“The Tanzania/Zanzibar experience should help the EAC to avoid pitfalls and address some of the challenges that it is facing at the moment. This information will shape the EAC processes as it moves towards Political Federation,” said the experts.