September 18, 2007

Debate on East African Political Federation continues

Despite Tanzania's rejection for the fast-tracking of the proposed East African Political Federation, the regional community insists consultations on the issue were far from being put on hold. A debate to attain an immediate political federation is still ongoing, Eriya Kategaya, the Chairman of the East African Community (EAC) Council of Ministers, has said. According to him, East Africans will once again be consulted on whether to adopt the proposal to fast-track the political federation or to go through the normal stages of integration as Tanzanians recommended in nationwide consultations. The normal stages of integration are customs union, common market and monetary union (by 2012), and subsequently a political union.
The EAC is comprised of Rwanda, Uganda, Kenya, Tanzania and Burundi, and has a combined market of about 120 million people. Rwanda and Burundi, who officially joined the community on June 18, are yet to be consulted. "The possibility of re-discussing it (fast-tracking political federation) cannot be ruled out. It (subject) is not dead. It is still an option although no decision has been reached," Kategaya said.
Findings of the just-concluded consultations on the political federation in Kenya, Tanzania and Uganda showed that Kenyans and Ugandans were eager to embrace an immediate federal state. But Tanzanians said the bloc should instead fast-track an economic union before evolving into a political federation. However, the three countries concurred that the region would progress faster under political union, and thus overwhelmingly supported political federation in principle. The findings were presented to an EAC Extraordinary Heads of State Summit in August in Arusha, where the regional leaders had agreed to fast-track an economic integration before establishing a political union as Tanzanians had approved. “The President is bound by what was proposed in Arusha; to fast-track the Customs Union, Common Market and the Monetary Union before going for a political federation," Kategaya, who is also Uganda's First Deputy Premier and Minister for East African Affairs, said.
In their report, Tanzania said they would not accept an immediate political federation for fear of losing their land and jobs to other East Africans and were against the mergence of unequal economic and education levels in the region. But Kategaya said that Tanzanians had no reason for scepticism since their concerns would be addressed by the treaty that is yet to be amended. He re-affirmed that fast-tracking the political union would be revisited, and that the trend of thinking by some East Africans, who are against an instant political integration, would be reviewed. Kategaya also dispelled fears that the bloc could disintegrate because of the recent disagreement between partner states. "There is no cause for a breakdown. A difference in tactics should not become the basis to collapse. We have been together since pre-colonial times," he said. He added: "Our objective is to have a bigger unit so as to improve our bargaining power. Why should we be in a hurry not to attend to each individual partner state's concerns? Our weakness (in Africa) has been the manipulation of smaller states. We want to move as a bigger unit to improve our bargaining power." Rwanda is yet to launch national consultations on both the political federation and it's fast-tracking. (New Times, Kigali)

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