My address is on the East African Community (EAC) and Tanzania’s fate in it. I have decided to do that because there are so many questions among Tanzanians because of the recent activities of the Coalition of the Willing, which leaves out Tanzania.
They have met three times — in June in Kampala, August in Mombasa and just last month in Kigali.
Two or more countries are allowed to meet over bilateral issues. We also have done that in the past. But countries are not allowed to meet on issues that are in the Protocol or to take decisions that will affect the integration process of the whole region.
But they can meet and decide to take over implementation of issues agreed upon by the EAC only with permission of the Secretariat or the Heads of State Summit.
However, the Coalition of the Willing has met and deliberated on issues under the auspice of EAC integration.
In their summits, our partners in the EAC have been discussing eight issues: Building a standard gauge railway line from Mombasa to Kigali and Sudan, building a pipeline from Mombasa to South Sudan and from Eldoret to Uganda and Rwanda, building a petroleum refinery in Uganda, starting a single customs territory, fast-tracking EAC political federation, fast-tracking a single EAC tourist visa, mechanisms of using national ID as a travel document within the region and production and distribution of electricity.
Four issues among these are not necessarily in the EAC Protocol. These are: Building a standard gauge railway, a pipeline, a petroleum refinery in Uganda and an electricity project. But even in these infrastructure projects there was no reason to sideline Tanzania. Because most of the projects were discussed in our Summits and Tanzania showed an interest in participating in them. As far as the electricity projects are concerned, we have the EAC Power Pool plan. It is therefore, in our interest to participate in the electricity projects.
Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni also brought up the issue of construction of an oil refinery in Uganda during one of our Summits. He invited those of us in the EAC who are interested to team up with Uganda in the project.
Tanzania immediately expressed an interest in the project because it would, ultimately, make it cheaper to import refined petroleum products from Uganda than from the Middle East. But they have sidelined Tanzania.
Our partners are also aware that we expressed interest in the Eldoret-Kampala-Kigali oil pipeline. It would be cheaper for us to get oil from nearby Uganda for our industrial and domestic uses. The aim was for the pipeline to branch to Mwanza once it reached Uganda.
It is the same thing with the standard gauge railway line from Mombasa to Uganda, Rwanda and to Burundi. Our expectations have always been that there should be a railway line branching to Tanzania to connect our market with the rest of the EAC. It makes economic sense and even colonialists saw this when they interconnected our railway lines in the region.
It is obvious that infrastructure projects rank highly among the priorities of the EAC and have featured prominently in the EAC Summits. That is why we have the EAC Railways Master Plan; the EAC road network project of which the Arusha-Athi River road is a product.
I remember when I was Tanzania’s finance minister I led several EAC delegations to seek funds for various EAC infrastructure projects. Now I wonder what has changed. What has gone wrong with the spirit of co-operation on infrastructure?
In fact, this whole issue of sidelining Tanzania is puzzling, I must admit, and Tanzania has every reason to ask what has happened. We met on April 28 in Arusha. Two months later our friends meet alone, to discuss the same issues that we have deliberated and instructed the EAC Council of Ministers to start working on. This is a clear sign of isolating others. And I am asking: How can we integrate through isolation?
The four remaining issues directly concern the EAC Protocol. These are the use of national IDs as a travel document, political federation, a single tourist visa and Single Customs Territory.
We have no problem with two issues — use of national IDs as travel documents and common tourist visa. We agreed that countries that are ready to implement the two issues should go ahead. Tanzania was not ready to adopt IDs as travel documents because it does not have national IDs. It is only now that we are in the process of making IDs.
During the April 2013 Summit in Arusha we accepted and adopted proposals for a Single Customs Territory. What it entails is that it will allow each member to supervise and collect its own Customs revenue, just exactly the way it is now. However, for goods passing through one territory to another, Customs revenue will be collected at the first border point and remitted to responsible countries.
We ordered the EAC Council of Ministers to form a task force that would come up with modalities on how to implement the issue. It was agreed that at the next Summit to take place in December, we would receive a report on the issue. Surprisingly, our partners have started implementing the issue before even the report from the EAC Council of Ministers is tabled.
It is the same story with political federation. In the Nairobi Summit, we discussed the issue. The EAC Council of Ministers was also tasked to table a report in the next Summit. But our friends have gone ahead and are now fast-tracking political federation. And we are asking ourselves questions we can’t answer. Why are they sidelining us? Is it that they hate me personally? Is this a conspiracy to push Tanzania out of the EAC? What is their motive? Why are they doing it to us?
I want to assure you esteemed Members of Parliament that Tanzania will never quit the EAC. We are there to stay and we will continue to be there. Tanzania has never wronged any member of the EAC. If any member has a grudge against us, they should tell us. Tanzania is a faithful and honest member in the process. We are active participants in the integration process. And we have all along fulfilled our part of the bargain.
Whenever they have been asked why they are sidelining Tanzania, they only keep saying that Tanzania will catch up later. I hear they call themselves the Coalition of the Willing. I wonder who is not willing. How is it that they are not inviting us to their meetings and thereafter say we are not willing? They have never invited us. I have never received any invitation to these meetings.
There are allegations that Tanzania is dragging its feet on the integration process and that it is an impediment to the integration process. I want to say from the bottom of my heart that these allegations are totally false. Tanzania is a true believer in the integration process. We have proven that through the Union with Zanzibar. Our Union is the only one that has lasted up to now in Africa.
We have been implementing all those things agreed under the auspices of the EAC. I admit that on some other issues the EAC sometimes wants to surpass its mandate, like in trying to dictate our relations with countries that are not members of the EAC. Tanzania’s commitment to the EAC is obvious.
Just this financial year we have contributed about $12 million to the EAC budget. Is this not one of the clear signs that we are committed? We cannot be this committed and then be the first to sabotage it. It is impossible! What is costing us in the EAC is Tanzania’s stand on political federation, issues of land, the labour market and immigration.
But what I am asking myself is why our stand on these issues should cause our friends to sideline us all other issues?
We have been urging our partners to build the EAC in accordance with the Protocol. We have no problem with fast-tracking political federation, but only if the whole process and all steps are followed in accordance with the EAC Protocol.
We did not agree on fast-tracking the political federation without completing the other steps. We have been frank about this in the appropriate forums of the EAC. Our stand comes from principle. That is, we must establish first the economic and financial mechanisms and let them take root.
When EAC is fully integrated economically and benefits start to trickle in, then we can start talking about the EAC political federation. The political foundation built on sound economic integration is a union built on a strong foundation. It is only when countries start benefiting economically that starting a political federation will make sense. Without a sound economic footing a political federation is a waste of time.
We also respect the Amos Wako report that proposed that immigration, land and labour issues should remain domestic issues. Wako’s report on political federation also proposed that the Customs Union be left to mature till 2010. And if everything goes well, we will sign the Monetary Union Protocol in the next Summit this year.
After that we would soon go into political federation. However, according to the EAC protocol there must be a referendum before a political federation process starts.
Tanzania wants to see a stronger and more prosperous EAC. Tanzania has no problem with fast-tracking of the EAC integration process, but what we are not ready to do is to jump steps. If we do that the foundations of the federation will be weak. We do not want a repeat of 1977. Tanzania will participate in the integration process. We will attend all official EAC forums. We will do everything in our power to ensure EAC does not weaken or die.
Jakaya Kikwete is the President of Tanzania. The above is an address delivered to Tanzania’s parliament on November 7.