TANZANIA’S ISOLATION IN THE EAST AFRICAN COMMUNITY

by David Brewin

Once again Britain and Tanzania seem to be facing a similar dilemma
– how do you join a multilateral organisation aiming to bring neighbouring countries together in the common interest without sacrificing important parts of your own sovereignty? In Europe, Britain was originally forced to delay its entry into the European Union because another member state, France, objected that the country was not ‘European enough’. Then Britain was allowed to enter and it subsequently signed several treaties which were clearly aimed at the ultimate creation of a European Federation. It was many years before Britons began to understand what was happening and how its sovereignty was being undermined. But at the same time, for many the EU offered attractive features in trade and free movement of people that Britain did want.

Over the years the Conservative party almost broke into two on the issue and the anti-EU UKIP party rapidly gained support. The British government has now decided to hold a referendum in 2017 (if it wins the election in 2015) on whether Britain should abandon its close ties with the other EU countries and go it alone.

The ‘Coalition of the Willing’
To the surprise of many, and quite suddenly, Tanzania finds itself facing the same kind of dilemma as Britain, and also a growing isolation. Kenya, Uganda and Rwanda have become known as the ‘Coalition of the Willing’, pushing ahead with political, economic and infrastructure projects, leaving Tanzania side-lined from important discussions. Tanzania was not invited to (or decided to stay away from) several recent EAC meetings. As this issue of TA went to press the ‘Coalition’ were discussing the draft of a federal constitution. Many Tanzanians believe (not without some justification) that Tanzania is not like the other EAC members, so during recent months the government has been trying to put a brake on the rush towards a political federation.

Reactions in Tanzania
At the end of October East African Cooperation Minister Samuel Sitta said that any decision concerning the EAC federation reached only by the ‘willing countries’ would not be recognised by Tanzania. On 7 November, as the crisis escalated, President Kikwete told parliament that Tanzania would never quit the East African Community, and called on her neighbours to be more accommodating. “We have come too far… to give up now….Tanzania has done nothing wrong against any EAC member state…. some leaders are said to be accusing Tanzania of dragging its feet on the integration of the EAC…..we do not have problems fast-tracking the proposed Federation. But this must be done according to the ‘Federation Protocol’…. nowhere is it said that we should skip any of the preparatory steps. But these friends of ours have decided to do so. We want to avoid what happened in 1977 [when the first EAC collapsed].” In an echo of the European Union controversy, he added: “We must bear in mind that economic gains are among the attractions for member states to remain members. If this is not done the political federation will be under threat”.

Contentious issues
The Ugandan newspaper New Vision in October listed other ‘sticking points.’ They included Tanzania’s recent expulsion of refugees; its imposition of a 35% increase in work permit fees on residents of other EAC states; a $200 fee on vehicles crossing into its territory; and its opposition to the use of national identity cards as travel documents within the EAC (because Tanzania had not completed issuing these documents to its own people).

The paper claimed that during the September 2013 terrorist attack on the Nairobi Westgate supermarket, the EAC HQ in Arusha was unable to mobilise and transfer blood to Nairobi because ‘of the complexities of moving such a delicate matter as blood’; and President Kikwete was not present at a meeting in October when Uganda abolished work permit fees for Kenyans and Rwandans. (Thank you Kenneth Mdoe for sending this – Editor)

In early August – in the East African Legislative Assembly, which meets in rotation in member countries – some members had wanted to oust the Tanzanian Speaker who was alleged to favour meeting permanently in its Arusha HQ as a way to save money.

Some observers believe that there is a power struggle going on. Kenya’s economy has always been stronger than the other EA countries, but things are now changing. Foreign investment in Kenya now lags well behind Tanzania and Uganda. Tanzania benefitted from its much longer trade relations with China, dating from when China constructed the TAZARA Railway; and China has now agreed to finance a massive port at Bagamoyo with a capacity far greater than Mombasa and Dar es Salaam put together. Kenya needs a ‘coalition of the willing’ to hang on to the huge trade prospects in Uganda, Rwanda, Burundi, the DRC and now South Sudan.

The land issue comes first
The first meeting of the Presidents of Kenya, Rwanda and Uganda, without Tanzania, was in Entebbe in June 2013; the second in September in Mombasa. It was revealed that, for Tanzania, land was the major issue. The country has just over half of the land mass of the EAC but less than half under agriculture. With a population explosion under way, Tanzania feared that, under a new Federation, there could be great pressure on it to open its gates to workers from neighbouring countries and its land to foreign buyers or leaseholders.

Dream dashed
Tanzanian columnist Jenerali Ulimwengu wrote in The East African newspaper that moving ahead on EAC integration without Tanzania would amount to trying to “stage Hamlet without the prince”. He also said: “Some of us fear the dream of integration of our countries is in danger of being dashed once again….Our leaders need to stop singing themselves lullabies. If they cannot engage with their natural partners, they will not be able to engage with the artificial ones they have tried to cobble together,” (referring to suggestions about Tanzania’s approaches to the members of the Southern African Development Communty (SADC) as an alternative to the EAC). Ugandan journalist Paul Busharizi wrote in New Vision: “Whatever the reasons at the top, the people of East Africa would hate to see the Community break up again”. In The East African, Tanzanian columnist Elsie Eyakuze wrote that “It is hard to tell how we have fallen into this area of mild disgrace….we are steadily dropping off every popularity chart imaginable”. Like the UK in Europe!

The original concept
The original East African Federation came into being in June 1967. It established joint ownership and operation of services managed by the East African Railways and Harbours; the East African Airways; the East African Posts and Telecommunications; the Inter-University Council for East Africa; and the East African Currency Board. There was also a Court of Appeal for East Africa and an East African Legislative Assembly. It ended when Idi Amin seized power in Uganda and when Kenya became more capitalist and Tanzania more socialist.

Although the EAC is in stormy waters at present, it has some positive achievements to its credit. It has set up a Customs Union and a Common Market. In November it was due to complete a ‘Single Customs Territory’ and work is underway on a Monetary Union. This will be implemented over 10 years, with a single currency to be launched at the last stage, which will culminate in the integration of member states’ financial markets.

New measures bring EAC countries closer
At an extraordinary summit meeting attended by all five EAC Heads of State in Kampala on November 30 some progress was made in bringing Tanzania back on board.

Tanzania argued that its slow decision making was dictated by the need to get input from its citizens. However, all five presidents signed a Monetary Union Protocol and agreed that all the partner states should conclude the ratification of this by July 2014. They also agreed that the East African passport be launched on November 2014. According to the Uganda Sunday Monitor, the Tanzanian President sat closest to his Burundian counterpart throughout the summit. All participants agreed that it would be necessary to sensitise East African citizens about the benefits of the Union. President Kenyatta said ”Let us all put an end to unnecessary rumour mongering” and President Museveni was said to have lashed out at people who employed tribalism and religion to divide the population.

But, in spite of this, Tanzania has now announced officially that it is starting a new economic partnership with Burundi and the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC). The three countries met in Burundi and agreed to develop road, rail and water transportation infrastructure. Meanwhile Kenya with Uganda and Rwanda (now plus South Sudan) has launched a plan to develop a new 500-kilometre standard gauge railway line starting in Mombasa.

The East African is now writing about two competitive ‘coalitions of the willing’ as a possible blessing in disguise to trigger faster development in all seven countries.

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