Why Uganda, Tanzania are dedicated EAC members
The bloc plays down rocky bilateral ties
February 16, 2018
By Joe Lihundi, Tranquility News, Arusha
Uganda and Tanzania are the most loyal members of the East African Community (EAC) if timely remittance of contributions to the regional bloc’s secretariat is anything to go by.
The two EAC partner states already have dispatched 80 per cent and 50 per cent, respectively, of their contributions to the regional integration project this year.
The EAC Secretary General, Mr Liberat Mfumukeko, said the move ushered the partner states’ commitment to the regional integration process.
Mr Mfumukeko said unlike in other regional economic communities on the continent where members had not paid for their contributions for several years, none of the EAC partner states had more than a two-year arrears.
The EAC Secretary General said another sign that the partner states were committed to the integration project was last year’s meeting of the heads of state in Nairobi where they deliberated on the constitution of the much awaited East African federation.
Political federation is the ultimate goal of the EAC regional integration and the fourth step after the Customs Union, Common Market and Monetary Union.
It is provided for in Article 5(2) of the Treaty establishing the bloc and is founded on three pillars, namely common foreign and security policies, good governance and effective implementation of other regional integration stages.
“Each EAC partner state is working round the clock to facilitate movement of people in the region,” Mr Mfumukeko said, insisting that the move also signaled their commitment to the integration process.
Save for South Sudan, the youngest member, each partner state is busy trying to meet this year’s deadline for application of e-passports in the region, he explained.
Heads of State Retreat
Mr Mfumukeko was addressing the media on Thursday ahead of the Joint EAC Heads of State Retreat on Infrastructure and Health Financing and Development slated for Kampala, Uganda, towards the end of this month.
The goal of the 4th retreat to be held for three days at Speke Resort with effect from Wednesday is to deepen and widen regional integration through infrastructure and health sector development in the partner states.
The EAC heads of state will approve two key infrastructural projects worth $900 million during the forthcoming retreat in Kampala, Uganda.
The EAC Deputy Secretary General (Planning and Infrastructure), Mr Steven Mlote, said during the same occasion that one of the projects involving road and marine transport around Lake Victoria shores will cost $410 million.
“Rwanda, Tanzania and Uganda will directly benefit from this project,” he said, adding: “The EAC believes an integrated and efficient transport system will serve as a prime mover for socio-economic development in the region.”
He said Kagera River, which pours its water into Lake Victoria from Rwanda, will be designed to allow marine vessels to operate between the landlocked country and the world’s second largest freshwater body.
Another project, also involving roads and marine transport surrounding Lake Tanganyika, will cost $500 million.
Both projects will, upon completion, link the East African region with the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa.
The retreat is expected to attract about 700 participants, including local and international exhibitors, ministers, permanent secretaries and senior officials from government institutions and agencies.
The EAC heads of state will, among other things, deliberate on financial bottlenecks inhibiting infrastructure and health projects in the region during the forum.
Mr Mfumukeko allayed the East Africans’ fear of apparently hostile bilateral ties rocking Burundi and Rwanda as well as Kenya and Tanzania, saying countries will always disagree on some matters, but mechanisms for resolving misunderstandings among partner states were in place.
Burundi has in recent years been accusing Rwanda of training rebels seeking to distabilise the neighbouring country.
Burundi maintains that Rwanda is hosting General Godefroid Niyombare, the leader of a failed coup, and helping rebels to launch cross-border attacks.
Rwanda denies the allegations saying Burundi is trying to deflect attention from its own problems. The two countries, which share a similar ethnic make-up, have a tense relationship.
Rocky diplomatic relations between Kenya and Tanzania are compounded by the latter’s disruption of the ‘Coalition of the Willing’ by re-routing the Uganda’s 1,403-km crude oil pipeline through Tanga route instead of the Mombasa Port.
Kenya feels Tanzania is undermining its economic growth plans through large-scale regional infrastructural projects, including expansion of ports and construction of standard gauge railway.