EAST AFRICA FEDERATION – A SLOW DOWN?

As happens from time to time in the European Union, enthusiasts for a ‘fast tracking’ process to expedite progress towards the establishment of an East African Federation, are coming up against more and more opposition. Many Tanzanian MP’s have publicly declared their opposition to the establishment of such a federation by 2013 but, according to East African Cooperation Affairs Minister Ibrahim Msabaha in an interview with The Guardian, they had done so as individuals and not on behalf of the people they represented. Most of the delegates who contributed to a recent debate of legislators in Dodoma rejected the fast-tracking idea as a non-starter, saying the citizenry needed more time to evaluate the process before making a definitive stand that would take the nation’s interests into account. Dr Msabaha explained that the Government was not against legislator’s opinions so long as it was understood that they aired their views in their personal capacities and not by virtue of their being the official legislative representative of the people in their respective constituencies.

The fact that only a fraction of the legislators who gave their views were staunchly against the fast-tracking idea raised many questions. The dominant view among the MPs, just as is the case with the larger public, relates to fear of the possibility of Tanzania becoming a loser after the formation of the proposed federation.
Most people interviewed on the issue have said they do not see the need of having the federation at the moment because Tanzania is still lagging behind Kenya and Uganda in economic development and might end up being little more than a market for the goods they produce. Many recommended that the formation of the federation should get peoples’ consent, preferably through a referendum.

EAC Secretary General, Juma Mwapachu, was quoted as saying: “People are completely confused. What we are currently doing is not fast-tracking the East African Federation but fast-tracking the building blocs i.e. the customs union, common market, monetary union, and ultimately, the Federation itself. The time for a full-scale federation may be years ahead. It is something that cannot be decided now.”

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