Sunday, December 11, 2011

Tanzanians: The reluctant East Africans

In November 2009, I penned an article in 'The Monitor' inspired by a road trip I took from Kampala, through Nairobi, to Arusha in Tanzania.

The article, 'The dream of one East Africa is a distant one', decried the delay in attitudinal change by East Africans in shifting to a 'one East Africa' mentality.

I argued that the idea of one East Africa is clearly one we ought to nurture and realize given the global blocks of the EU,USA, China whose combined populations, market and GDP give them a competitive edge in the global race in which we find ourselves.

I also mentioned that the dream of one East Africa is currently a top-down vision held largely by heads of state which needs to trickle down to the regular East African in Kikuubo, Kariakoo or Kibera.

The doubts on the pace of East African integration in 2009 don’t seem to have gotten any much better despite the numerous announcements of milestones. Only that Tanzanians now seem even more reluctant East Africans. And there is plenty of evidence.

Only two weeks ago, It was reported in our dailies that Tanzania has slapped a 25% tax on Ugandan imports contrary to the recently signed customs union among all East African states that bars taxes on member countries' exports .

Tanzania has declined to sign a defense protocol of all East African countries-a project of the East African community. Tanzania says it doesn't want to be mired in the conflicts common to other East African countries. The defense protocol provides that an attack on one makes it a duty for all the rest to rise up in a mutual defense pact akin to NATO.

The High Court in Tanzania recently ruled against the East African Development bank in favour of a Tanzanian businessman-borrower to the tune of over USD$ 163 million which threatens to effectively bankrupt the bank, a survivor of the earlier East African community of the 1970s. You may say that the Tanzanian executive has no control over the courts but then East African community treaty (which Tanzania signed) says member countries should not allow litigation against East African community assets.

Observers who attended a meeting in Bujumbura at the end of last month at which East African community ministers were supposed to sign an agreement for the establishment of the East African Community Political Federation reported that Tanzania declined to sign the agreement and dramatically left its seat at the meeting.

It was only after hand-wringing that Tanzania finally singed the agreement- days after the rest of the countries had signed on.

Despite an agreement(common market) earlier this year that goods and services should freely move across all borders within East Africa(including human resources),Tanzania still bars other East Africans from getting jobs in Tanzania.

Ugandans in Northern Tanzania tell me once they get a job in Tanzania they are swiftly reported to the authorities under a community whistle-blowing arrangement.

I arrived in Tanzania again earlier this year and the 'visa' stamped in my Ugandan passport showed that I was given 14 days in Tanzania. Even the Americans and British have granted me alot more days in their realms.

At the root of all this is Tanzanian mistrust and suspicion of other East African countries. There is a widespread belief in Tanzania that in an integrated East Africa, Kenyans will take their jobs and Ugandans are a chaotic lot given their turbulent history and lifting of presidential term limits.

And it is not only Tanzania which has fallen short. The East African community recently mooted the idea of a common foreign policy protocol by June 2011 but, to date, not one East African country has come good on that milestone. And the East African common currency? Don't get me started. The Greek tragedy in the EU is a cautionary tale.

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