|15 January 2001
TANZANIA: East African Community launched
The three East
African heads of state on 15 January inaugurated the East African Community (EAC)
in Arusha, northern Tanzania. Kenya's President Daniel arap Moi, Uganda's
Yoweri Museveni and Tanzania's Benjamin Mkapa, formalised the EAC treaty set to
pave way for an economic and, ultimately, political union of the three
countries. "Everything that we have done up to now has just been the
preparation, the work for integration has just begun," Mkapa said at the
"The important goals of the EAC are to improve our
economies, quality of life and relations between the three countries," EAC
secretary-general Francis Muthaura added in a statement. Technocrats who have
been working towards the cooperation have termed it "a new chapter" in which
"none of the old mistakes will be repeated". The "old mistakes", an official at
the EAC secretariat in Arusha told IRIN, refer to the problems which led to the
collapse of the EAC in 1977.
East Africa had become ideologically
split then, with Kenya advocating capitalism and social interventions, while
Tanzania pursued socialism. Besides, mistrust among the leaders mounted
especially after Uganda's former dictator Idi Amin took power by force.
Monday's EAC statement said the three countries now ascribed to economic
policies that were pro-market, pro-private sector and pro-liberalisation.
Moi, Museveni and Mkapa had signed the treaty in November 1999 which set
out the principles for economic, monetary and political union. It also provided
for common action on the movement of people and goods between member countries
and on transport, tourism and telecommunications.
There are still
sticking points in the treaty which, according to the EAC's secretary-general,
Muthaura, "are being addressed". Tariffs have remained a thorny issue. The
treaty calls for common external tariffs and the elimination of international
tariffs, but the economic disparities among the members cast doubt on how this
could be implemented.
The establishment of an East African legislative
assembly and of a customs union is still to be realised. "It is a good starting
point," regional analyst Professor Moustafa Hassouna of Nairobi University told
IRIN on Monday. "What remains is implementation of what is in the blueprint."
He pointed out that the union could have a lot of potential for the region
"since regional blocs are now the name of the game".
But he warned
that Tanzania and Uganda's quest to join the Southern African Development
Community (SADC) "casts doubt on whether they will stay in the EAC". Rwandan
President Paul Kagame and his Burundian counterpart, Pierre Buyoya, also
attended the EAC launching ceremony in Arusha.
The two countries have
expressed their wish to join the community. President Mkapa noted on Monday
that their admission could only take place once the state of insecurity in
their countries had been permanently addressed. The East African region
(Tanzania, Kenya and Uganda) covers an area of 1.8 million square kilometres
with a combined population of about 80 million and has a vast potential in
mineral, water, energy, forestry and wildlife resources.
It also has
agricultural, livestock, industry and tourism development. Its people have a
common history, language (Kiswahili), culture and infrastructure. The EAC
integration was aborted in 1977 after 10 years. Efforts to revive the community
began in 1993 with the heads of state signing an agreement to establish a
commission for East African cooperation.