Kikwete says Tanzania won't pull out of troubled EAC
Tanzania President Jakaya Kikwete said his government was not planning to pull out of the East African Community (EAC).
Speaking in Parliament on Thursday, the president insisted that his administration was determined to seeing the bloc prosper and that he will do everything in his power to make sure that the five-member community does not collapse.
The East African Community is made up of Tanzania, Kenya, Uganda, Rwanda and Burundi.
Recently, however, Kenya, Uganda and Rwanda formed the so-called "coalition of the willing" with the three countries signing a number of agreements, which have irked the Tanzanian government.
In his address, Kikwete blamed the three countries saying their decision to discuss projects outside the agreed protocols signed sidelined Tanzania.
"Why are other member countries doing this? What has happened? Why are they sidelining us?" he questioned, adding that prior to April 28 the five countries were good friends.
Tanzania was being sidelined
He told the packed debating chamber that Tanzania was being sidelined in nearly all major projects involving member countries; with the three countries going ahead to separately implement a single customs union prior to the agreement.
On Tuesday, Kenya's Cabinet secretary for East African affairs, commerce and tourism Phyllis Kandie, Uganda's Tourism and Wildlife Minister Agnes Egunyo and Rwanda's high commissioner to the United Kingdom ambassador William Nkurunziza launched a joint tourism visa at the World Tourism Market meeting in the United Kingdom.
The deal is set to come into force by January next year. Through the single travel document, member country states will adopt a joint Visa to facilitate free movement of tourist and citizens alike within the three countries.
A fortnight ago, presidents Uhuru Kenyatta from Kenya, Paul Kagame of Rwanda, Uganda's Yoweri Museveni and Salva Kiir of Southern Sudan signed a host of protocols and agreements in Kigali, including free movement of goods and persons, infrastructural development and transformation into a single customs union.
The pacts were signed on the sidelines of the three-day Transform Africa summit to which Tanzania and Burundi, both EAC member states, were not invited.
'Tanzania is not invited'
"Kenya, Uganda and Rwanda have created a 'coalition of willing'. How can we be willing if Tanzania is not invited?" he asked.
He said allegations from the other members that Tanzania was an unwilling member were baseless and that Tanzania has constantly provided time, money and other resources to support the EAC initiative. "It is not possible," he insisted.
He posed that other EAC member countries hate Tanzania because of its stance on political federation. Tanzania has been insisting on a gradual process to attaining a political federation, favouring an economic integration first.
"We will not be rushed into a political federation," he said, adding; "Let us focus on economic issues first before jumping into political union …we should not jump steps."
Despite all these, President Kikwete said he will continue to participate in the activities of the bloc and ensure that it does not collapse.
"I want to assure my fellow Tanzanians that I don't want this community to break … I don't want Tanzania to be the source of the break out … I will talk to them [the other members]," Mr Kikwete said.
The EAC was initially formed in 1967 but collapsed only 10 years later following ideological differences, among other reasons.
However, since the revival of the organisation in the 1990s (following international economic marginalisation), member states have voiced their scepticism with some accusing others of dilly-dallying in implementing plans and agreements.
Such agreements include the customs union in 2005, the Common Market Protocol in 2010 and the Monetary Union by 2012, as well as the Political Federation of East Africa by 2015, which have not been attained fully.
Sylivester Ernest is a 2013 winner of the David Astor Journalism award. He is on attachment to the Mail & Guardian.