Tanzania has warned that any efforts to sideline it while fast-tracking the East African federation could fail the whole regional integration project.
Uganda's President Yoweri Museveni (L) and Tanzania's Jakaya Kikwete
President Yoweri Museveni, Kenya’s Uhuru Kenyatta and Rwanda’s Paul Kagame have lately appeared to operate in trilateral ‘coalition’ zealous about faster integration, with Tanzania and Burundi not invited to meetings in June and August.
But speaking on Monday, Tanzania’s High Commissioner to Uganda, Dr Ladislaus Komba, predicted doom for the East Africa Community if the above trend continued.
“This may cause disturbance and may lead to problems which we had earlier. We have to learn from the past by appreciating what led to the 1970s experience so that we avoid making the same mistakes,” he said.
In 1977, the first EAC collapsed, following disagreements between Ugandan and Tanzania and Kenya and Tanzania. In June and August, Museveni, Kenyatta and Kagame agreed on ambitious infrastructure developments and strategies for fast-tracking the federation.
Museveni was tasked to spearhead railway development and fast-tracking the federation. Kenyatta was assigned to spearhead electricity generation and distribution, as well as oil pipeline development.
Kagame, on the other hand, was tasked with issues of customs, a single tourist visa, and an East African Community e-identity card. Museveni has since appointed Gen Aronda Nyakairima to head a committee to draft a constitution for any eventual political federation.
Aronda’s committee includes Ambassador Emmanuel Hatega, Col Francis Kasula, Ambassador Alex Mukuba and an official from the ministry of East African Community Affairs and the Attorney General’s office. The committee is expected to report by April 2014.
Whereas the three partner states have said their trilateral arrangement is within the EAC framework, Tanzania argues otherwise.
“The decision that involves the isolation of us (Tanzania/Burundi) has not been done under the EAC framework because the meetings have not been organised by the EAC secretariat, which is mandated to do so,” Komba said.
Komba accepts that the EAC treaty allows any three countries to form a quorum and reach a trilateral arrangement while other members catch up, but “the only concern we have is them making decisions that affect the other member states,” Komba said.
He cited the resolutions made by the three to establish a single customs territory and the resolution to fast-track the political federation, which he said had been handled without following procedure.
“Any decision you make on the customs territory will have an impact on the other member states. I know that the summit at some stage has pronounced itself about this matter but before we monitor its progress, they have established something different, why?” Komba said.
On the issue of political federation, Komba argues that it is prudent to have in line with Article 5(2) of the EAC Treaty, after getting the customs union, common market and monetary union working.
EALA MP reacts
According Fred Mukasa Mbidde, one of Uganda’s representatives in the East Africa Legislative Assembly, Tanzania has a point.
“It is good to move as others catch up with you but it is also important to have consensus as you move because failure to do so can create a misunderstanding,” Mbidde said this week.
He also questioned the Aronda committee: “Why is the line minister not on the team? Why have Aronda whose authority is currently questioned in the Constitutional court?”
However, Lawrence Mujuni, the director of the East African Community Affairs at the Uganda’s ministry of East African Community Affairs, insists that the trilateral arrangement is within the mandate and the resolutions provided for by the treaty, arguing that Komba may not have all the facts.
His view was echoed by Shem Bageine, the state minister for the East African Community Affairs: “What is done is consultation on the matters. And, I can repeat this that no one is going to make a decision that affects the other partner states.”
Bageine told us that other members would be briefed during the next EAC summit, due in November in Kampala.
Cautious, not reluctant
In President Museveni’s letter to Aronda, he refers to 2004 when the idea of fast-tracking the federation was first mooted and put to East Africans in a survey. According to the results, Tanzanians supported the federation of East Africa by 74.45 per cent but when it came to the issue of fast tracking, it was only 25.4 per cent.
In comparison, Uganda supported the federation by 77.6 per cent and fast-tracking by 56.3 per cent. Kenya supported the federation by 69.9 per cent and fast-tracking by 64.9 per cent. Rwanda supported the federation by 91.2 per cent and fast-tracking by 87per cent. Burundi supported the federation by 63 per cent and fast-tracking by 63.4 per cent.
It was widely reported then that the little enthusiasm for fast-tracking the federation in Tanzania was borne out of concerns about the country’s land and minerals. Tanzania has more land and minerals than any other EAC member state.
According to Museveni, instead of being held hostage by one member (Tanzania), other members should proceed to draft a constitution since they have all expressed support for fast-tracking. However, Komba argues that Tanzania is not dragging its feet, only cautious.
“We need to first appreciate whether the first initiatives are yielding some results… before we move to a federation,” Komba said. “We need to know each other. We need to trust each step, it is like a marriage, you cannot just marry someone you have just met, you have to know each other.”