by David Brewin
Tanzania and the EAC
Three East African Community (EAC) member countries (Kenya, Rwanda and Uganda) continue to forge ahead in signing agreements and strengthening their relations, while Tanzania and Burundi, the other members, remain either absent from discussions or self-excluded because so many of the new development programmes do not directly concern their countries for geographical reasons.
Examples include the dramatic fall in the clearance time for goods going from Mombasa to Kampala – down to 4 days compared with 12 days previously, and from 21 days to 6 for goods going from Mombasa to Kigali (Rwanda). There has been a substantial lowering of costs. This is the result of the East African Single Customs Territory (EASCT), which ministers from the three countries have recently signed.
Under a new special visa deal, foreign residents can get a single six-month multiple entry visa for US $100 valid in all three countries (i.e. not including Tanzania). This compares with the earlier cost of $150. The three countries are also participating together in various international tourist fairs.
From August 2014 the tax on mobile phone calls between the three countries is being reduced by 20%. Plans were being prepared for Tanzania to join in this.
After the rough period in relations between Tanzania and Rwanda last year, relations seem to be slowly getting better again. Rwandan President Paul Kagame said he would readily honour an official invitation to visit Tanzania if he received one because Tanzania meant a lot to him, as did the survival of Rwanda and the stability of the region. Tanzania’s State House responded by saying that the idea was not only welcome but was also a critical step in normalising relations between the two countries.
North Korean arms
A recent UN report has claimed that that 18 military technicians from North Korea had been involved in the refurbishment and repair of Tanzanian F-7 fighter jets and other military aircraft at the its Air Force base in Mwanza. The journal Africa Confidential has reported that although N. Korea has no diplomatic representation in Tanzania, two senior officers had been seconded to the Tanzanian Peoples Defence Forces. The report said that Uganda, Ethiopia and Eritrea were also engaged in providing military assistance.
Tanzania has strongly denied the allegations. “Tanzania has no trade relations with N Korea. UN sanctions are specific. They are about trade and we don’t have any trade deals with North Korea,” said a Foreign Affairs spokesman. He added however that maybe the TPDF may know more.
North Korea is believed to have developed sophisticated ways to circumvent UN sanctions, including the suspected use of its embassies to facilitate an illegal trade in weapons, and making use of complicated financial techniques “pioneered by drug-trafficking organizations” , so that tracking the isolated state’s purchase of prohibited goods is more difficult.
The 127 page report was compiled by a panel of eight UN experts and is part of an annual audit of North Korea’s compliance with UN sanctions imposed in response to Pyongyang’s banned nuclear weapons and missile programs. The panel reports to the UN Security Council.
“From the incidents analyzed in the period under review, the panel has found that (North Korea) makes increasing use of multiple and tiered circumvention techniques,” a summary of the report said.
Chinese ambassador speaks frankly
In a wide ranging interview given by Chinese Ambassador Lu Youqing to the Hong Kong newspaper South China Post (quoted by the Citizen) he touched on some delicate parts of Chinese relations with Tanzania and Tanzanians.
On corruption he said that in 2011 his country had made amendments to its criminal law so that it was now a criminal offence for Chinese nationals to bribe nationals in foreign countries.
The Ambassador voiced his concern about “shoddy” work being carried out by some Chinese contractors in neighbouring countries and said that some infrastructure projects had been undertaken by Chinese companies at unrealistic prices. They had been building roads for between $300,000 and $400,000 per km but the real cost was much higher and he wondered what would happen to these roads in five years’ time.
The Ambassador expressed his disappointment over “bad habits” that tarnished China’s image in Tanzania. For example he mentioned corruption and illegal ivory trading. “Our people just cannot shake off their bad habits. When they come to Africa, they are not united and engage in infighting as usual” he said. He referred to competition among Chinese companies over contracts and bribes offered to Tanzanian officials to lobby on their behalf.
On violent crime targeting Chinese nationals in Tanzania he said: “Tanzania has ambassadors from about seventy countries but none of them needs to constantly worry like us about consular protection issues, police harassment and robberies targeting Chinese citizens.”