I have been a proponent of regional integration and more specifically East African Community knowing very well that vulnerable economies especially in the Third World stand to benefit immensely from such unity initiatives.
However, Tanzania has been accused of a lackluster commitment towards actualisation of East African Community with all the delays in moving the union to the next level being blamed on her. I belonged to the same school of thought that believed Tanzania was the problem, but slowly, it is becoming evident that unless clear and common ideological benchmarks are set among member states, realisation of the formidable integration is not going to be attained in the near future.
Proponents of integration may brand me pessimist, but critical analysis of contemporary developments within the union evidently reveal that certain fundamental aspects of governance that are unique to individual States may be a major contributory reason for skepticism in the unity efforts.
Democracy, respect for human rights and universal freedoms and liberties turn out as some of the main reasons Tanzania may be showing lukewarm support for East African Community.
Her ratings in terms of upholding a democratic culture where human rights are respected cannot be compared to her neighbours like Kenya, Uganda and Rwanda that rate poorly in such aspects. Yoweri Museveni’s regime for example has been accused of high handedness in silencing the Opposition and freedom of press, Kenya and Rwandese governments too have had a fair share of criticism as far as democracy and respect for human rights is concern.
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The say, show me your friends and I will tell you who you are.
When President Obama made his last tour of Africa, his choice of Tanzania over Kenya, the perceived regional economic powerhouse not to mention his paternal affinity to the latter, should be the greatest testimony to Tanzania’s rising stature as an ideal investment destination, thanks to her towering democratic credentials.
It is, therefore, incumbent upon member States of the East African Community to not only pursue stronger trade and economic relations even as they focus on attaining political integration, but more critically to ensure that they go that extra mile and face the elephant in the room which remains adequately opening up their democratic space to embrace respect for fundamental freedoms, human rights and rule of law if they intend to cement a formidable union.
Timothy Bolo, Nairobi