KIKWETE told a full House: “We are in the EAC to stay. We have come from so far. We have sacrificed too much to give up now. We will do everything in our power to make sure the EAC survives and achieves its ultimate goal of political federation.”
Also present during the session were Zanzibar President Ali Mohammed Shein, Vice President Ghalib Bilali, Prime Minister Mizengo Pinda and Chief Justice Othman Chande.
Mr Kikwete, just back from meetings in South Africa where he met Presidents Uhuru Kenyatta of Kenya and Yoweri Museveni of Tanzania, said he would engage his colleagues to find out exactly what the problem is. Claims that Tanzania is an impediment to integration were not true, he added, even though they have been repeated several times. On the contrary, he added, Tanzania is an active participant in the integration process and is fulfilling its part of the bargain.
Nevertheless, Tanzania would not agree to fast-tracking the political federation by leaping over key integration processes such as the Monetary Union.
Speaking with an intensity rarely seen in the ever-smiling President, Mr Kikwete told the House that he was puzzled and deeply saddened by efforts to sideline Tanzania even in issues that have been discussed all along at the level of the EAC summit meetings. The president said he had asked himself countless questions as to why Tanzania should be sidelined.
He added: “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.”
Tanzania has every reason to ask what happened, Mr Kikwete said: “We met on April 28 this year at a summit in Arusha. Two months later, they met to discuss how to implement the same issues that we discussed in April without inviting me. This is a sign that they want to isolate Tanzania. How can we integrate through isolation?”
Mr Kikwete’s comments came after Presidents Uhuru Kenyatta of Kenya, Yoweri Museveni of Uganda and Paul Kagame of Rwanda held three meetings this year, the latest on October 28 in Kigali, where they agreed to start implementing infrastructure projects, the political federation and the single customs territory.
President Kikwete affirmed that he has never invited the three tripartite meetings. “They call themselves The Coalition of the Willing,” Mr Kikwete said. “My question is ‘who, then, is not willing in the EAC integration process?’ Why don’t they invite us to see if we are willing or not?”
President Kikwete suggested that Tanzania was being overlooked because of its avowed stand on the political federation, land, immigration and movement of labour. He added: “I might be wrong, but my guess is that we are being sidelined 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 disclosed that two or more countries are allowed to meet over bilateral or trilateral issues but they can do so only to discuss issues that are not in the EAC protocol or those that have not been decided upon in the EAC Summit meetings. spite the fact that the three countries can go forward with the infrastructure projects without Tanzania, he added, the decision to sideline the country was against the spirit of integration since Tanzania had shown interest in participating in all the projects under discussion.
There have been expectations that the Mombasa-Kampala-Kigali standard gauge railways would branch to Tanzania and the Eldoret-Kampala-Kigali oil pipeline would branch to Mwanza. Tanzania was keen to invest in the Uganda oil refinery and the electricity issue was agreed jointly through the EAC Power pool project.In another development, the President yesterday defended Operation Tokomeza against poachers, saying it was the only way the government could protect and save animals and other natural resources. He said the operation has been suspended so the government could work on issues raised by MPs and wananchi. against game warders and other officials.
The operation was unavoidable because of the current situation and the diminishing elephant and rhino population and forests.Nevertheless, the government is working on comments raised by the public and all dishonest officials will be rooted out. Said the head of state: “We cannot allow what is going on to continue. We will be judged by history. We cannot afford this shame, serious measures need to be taken now.” He congratulated the Tanzania People’s Defence Forces soldiers on the role they played in the Democratic Republic of Congo mission, and added: “Since our soldiers went to Congo, they have been doing their work effectively and with high discipline as witnessed by the United Nations and the DRC government and its people.”
President Jakaya Kikwete’s speech delivered in Parliament on Thursday about the fate of the East African Community drew mixed reactions, with Ugandan authorities yesterday defending the position adopted by the ‘coalition of the willing’.Uganda’s government spokesman, Mr Ofwono Opondo, said Tanzania’s position was not new and added that the country was interested in defending its land and jobs.Separately, the European Union welcomed Tanzania’s pledge to end the recent wrangling and counselled that integrations require patience, commitment and goodwill to implement.
Locally, in a rare reaction, both the opposition and ruling party MPs praised President Kikwete’s speech.
In an email interview with The Citizen on Saturday yesterday, Mr Opondo accused Tanzania of playing to domestic politics and was hesitant because of fears that Ugandans and Kenyans would come and grab its land and jobs.“Tanzania should not use its internal weaknesses and failures and blame everything on Uganda and Kenya,” he said.
He said Tanzania should not be quick to point fingers because it was also doing more or less the same with her own chosen path.“Tanzania is discussing with DRC to construct a pipeline, is Uganda or Kenya complaining?” Is there anything or a clause that prevents Uganda and Kenya to move forward if one member is dragging its feet?”
In his speech, President Kikwete said two or more countries can meet over bilateral or trilateral issues but not on issues that are under the EAC protocols or those that have not been decided upon in the EAC Summit meetings.The head of delegation of the European Union to Tanzania, Mr Filiberto Ceriani Sebregondi, said the subject was an internal matter among EAC partner states and expressed confidence that the five members will attach great value to regional integration.
“President Kikwete, for his part, affirmed as much and this was an important signal to the region and to the people of Tanzania, who have much to gain from integration. No one wants to give up the achievements and ignore the potential,” he said.“As EU, we’re very well aware that an ambitious integration project requires much discussion and debate but in the EU we have witnessed, especially during recent years when Europe has been affected by an economic and monetary crisis, that in difficult times, it is possible and necessary to continue deepening the integration project.”