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Kikwete: Tanzania will not cause EAC’s collapse

By BY LUKE ANAMI | November 11th 2013
        Tanzanian President Jakaya Kikwete


TANZANIA: The path towards full integration of East African economies has been bumpy, with fears at various points that some member states would pull out of the five-nation trading bloc.

Tanzania, one of the nations that has in the recent past been seen as among the key obstacles to setting up the East African Community (EAC), has now said it will not be the reason for a collapse of the bloc.

While addressing Parliament in Dodoma last week, Tanzanian President Jakaya Kikwete expressed his displeasure at the way integration was being carried out.

He singled out Kenya, Uganda and Rwanda for organising EAC infrastructure meetings without involving all partner states.

“In the recent past, three EAC partners have decided to hold meetings to discuss projects without inviting Tanzania and Burundi. We have been planning everything together, but I do not know what has happened,” he said.

A conspiracy?

During the packed House session, which was attended by Vice-President Ghalib Bilali, Prime Minister Mizengo Pinda and Zanzibar’s President Ali Mohammed Shein, Kikwete asked: “Is there a conspiracy to push Tanzania out of the EAC? Or is that my colleagues from Kenya, Uganda and Rwanda have a personal hatred against me? I am asking these questions, but there are no answers.”

He added: “Our position is that we will never leave EAC, nor will we be part of the reason for the disintegration of the EAC.”

He said he did not want a replay of 1977, when ideological differences between Kenya and Tanzania led to the collapse of the EAC.

“What Tanzania aspires to do is build a regional bloc based on strong economic principles. Politics will always be there. But unless we peg our integration on the foundations of a strong economy, all the other efforts will be fruitless.”

Kenya, Uganda and Rwanda have held three meetings to discuss the region’s infrastructure.

The three countries first met in Kampala, and then in Mombasa.

The most recent meeting was held last month in Kigali, where the three heads of state resolved to fast track the Single Customs Territory, Political Federation and infrastructure projects.

“When the three presidents met, they did not invite us. If they invited us and we declined, then we would say so. But we did not get any invitation, even though the issues that were discussed were under the auspices of the EAC, of which we are members,” Kikwete said.

Rubbishing claims that the three states opted for a “coalition of the willing”, Kikwete said his country was not against EAC integration.

Coalition of the willing

“We hear that when people are asked why Tanzania is not invited, they say that this is a coalition of the willing and Tanzania will join later. Who is not willing?” he asked. “How can you invite yourselves and then go on to call yourself a coalition of the willing?”

While Kenya, Uganda and Rwanda have agreed to fast track the construction of a railway line from Mombasa to Kampala, as well as extend the oil pipeline from Eldoret to Kampala and Kigali, Kikwete differed with his colleagues for failing to notify him yet the projects were jointly discussed in November last year in Nairobi and later in April in Arusha.

“Tanzania would wish to see the pipeline extended from Uganda to Mwanza, connecting to Dar es Salaam, because Kenya, Uganda and South Sudan have oil that we can also access through the infrastructural projects they are discussing.”

He also took issue with the meeting in Kigali that sought to fast track the Political Federation at the expense of the Monetary Union.

“If the situation goes on like this, I don’t know what will happen. Tanzania would wish to see our colleagues implement the EAC Treaty as outlined in the four pillars, starting with the Customs Union, Common Market and ultimately a Political Federation.

“But we cannot discuss implementing the Political Federation before the Monetary Union whose progress will be made clear in the coming Heads of State Summit on November 30 in Kampala.”

He, however, acknowledged that his country has taken a stand on a number of issues, including the sensitive land ownership, that could have rubbed his neighbours the wrong way.

“We have been accused in the past of not being ready to integrate, that we have become a stumbling block and that we have deliberately been delaying the EAC integration process. We have heard that before, and sometimes when something is repeated, people begin to believe it. Yet that is not true,” Kikwete said.

“I am not afraid to say that our position on land, the political federation, immigration and labour are some of the factors that we have taken a strong position on. It is not a personal stand, but that of the whole of Tanzania.”

Not intentional

On implementing the Common Market Protocol, which calls for the use of machine-readable national identity cards as instruments of entry in the EAC, he said Tanzania is in the process of issuing national IDs to its citizens, but urged partner states that already have the IDs to go ahead and implement it.

He added that his country has put its trust in the EAC.

“If there is an issue that we have not done well, it will be because we lacked the ability to do it, but it was not intentional. Differences of opinion should not make our colleagues hate us to the extent of deciding to work on their own.

“Our cooperation with Zanzibar is the only union of its kind to have lasted longer than any in the world. Next year, we will commemorate 50 years since Tanganyika and Zanzibar came together to form the United Republic of Tanzania. We cannot, therefore, say we are not committed.

“It pains me when people say we are not committed when we have put a lot of effort to make the EAC a reality.”

Kenya, Uganda and Rwanda, on the other hand, see no problem with the current arrangement.

In a recent interview, Kenya’s EAC, Tourism and Trade Cabinet Secretary Phyllis Kandie reiterated that the EAC Treaty allows for the Principle of Asymmetry, which allows partner states within the bloc to implement the Treaty at their own pace.

 The EAC Heads of State Summit in Kampala is expected to be fiery as the perceived differences between Tanzania and its regional neighbours play out.

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