DODOMA- Tanzania will never quit the East African Community and will do everything in its power to make sure the community survives and becomes prosperous despite efforts by Kenya, Rwanda and Uganda to side-line it, President Jakaya Kikwete told the Parliament Thursday.
“We are in the EAC to stay. We have come from so far. We have sacrificed so much to give up now. We will do everything in our power to make sure the EAC survives and achieve its ultimate goal of political federation,” President Kikwete told the Parilament with President of Zanzibar Dr Ali Mohammed Shein, Vice President Dr Ghalib Bilali, Prime Minister Mizengo Pinda and Chief Justice Othman Chande in attendance.
Mr Kikwete who is just back from meetings in South Africa where he met Presidents Uhuru Kenyatta of Kenya and Yoweri Museveni of Uganda said he has started engaging his counterparts to find out exactly what the problem is and try to improve relations.
He said allegations that Tanzania was an impediment in the integration were not true despite the fact that they have been repeated several times.
“Tanzania is an active participant in the integration process and is fulfilling its part of the bargain,” he said.
But he added that Tanzania will not agree to fast racking the political federation by jumping other key integration processes such as the Monetary Union.
Speaking with an intensity rarely seen on the ever smiling President, Mr Kikwete told a fully packed House that he was, however, highly puzzled and deeply saddened by efforts to sideline Tanzania even in issues that have all along been discussed at the level of the EAC summit meetings.
He said he was asking himself countless questions on why Tanzania is being side-lined.
“Is there a conspiracy to push Tanzania out of the EAC? Is it that my counterparts from Kenya, Rwanda and Uganda hate me personally? It is difficult to even imagine the answers,” President Kikwete said.
He said Tanzania had every reason to ask what has happened.
“We met in April 28 this year at summit in Arusha. Two months later they meet again alone to discuss how to implement the same issues that we discussed in April, and without inviting me. This is a sign to isolate Tanzania. How can we integrate through isolation?” he wondered.
Mr Kikwete’s reaction comes after Presidents Uhuru Kenyatta of Kenya, Yoweri Museveni of Uganda and Paul Kagame of Rwanda held a series of three meetings this year, the latest being October 28 in Kigali where they discussed and agreed to start the implementation several issues including infrastructure projects, the political federation and the single customs territory.
President Kikwete affirmed that he has never been invited in the three tripartite meetings.
“They call the tripartite ‘the coalition of the willing’. My question is ‘who, then, is not willing in the EAC integration process?’ Why don’t they invite us and see if we are willing or not?” Mr Kikwete asked.
Kikwete said he is of the view that Tanzania is being sidelined because of its avowed stand on the political federation, land, immigration and movement of labour.
“I might be wrong, but my guess is that we are being sideline because we insist that we should not jump key integration steps such as the Monetary Union for the political federation. But in this and all other issues we have the EAC Protocol to back us,” he noted.
He said despite the fact that two or more countries are allowed to meet over bilateral or trilateral issues they are allowed to do so only to discuss issues that are not in the EAC protocol or which have not been decided upon in the EAC Summit meetings.
They can also decide to meet and decide on taking over implementation of issues agreed upon by the EAC only after permission from the secretariat, Kikwete said.
“However the ‘coalition of the willing’ has met and deliberated on issues under the auspice of EAC integration. These include the political federation and the single customs territory,” noted Kikwete.
Despite the fact that the three countries can go forward with the infrastructure projects without Tanzania the decision to sideline the country was against the spirit of the integration since Tanzania had shown interest in participating in all the projects being undertaken.
It was expected that the Mombasa-Kampala-Kigali standard gauge railway line would branch to Tanzania; the Eldoret-Kampala-Kigali oil pipeline would branch to Mwanza; Tanzania was invited, and in fact wanted, to invest in the Uganda oil refinery; the electricity issue was agreed together through the EAC Power pool project.