EAC integration: Defending the Tanzanians

This month marks a whole ten years since the then leaders of Uganda, Kenya and Tanzania decided to revive the East African Community. Rwanda and Burundi later joined the club and a lot of activities have been under taken to see to it that the final goal of a political federation is achieved.

This month marks a whole ten years since the then leaders of Uganda, Kenya and Tanzania decided to revive the East African Community.

Rwanda and Burundi later joined the club and a lot of activities have been under taken to see to it that the final goal of a political federation is achieved.

The media in the region has been awash with stories pointing out what some commentators have considered to be the irritating hesitation of our Tanzanian brothers towards full integration.

I think it is only fair if we gave the Tanzanians the benefit of doubt. It is quite redundant to argue that the same country that hosts the East African headquarters is also the same one that is not willing to commit to the EAC Charter.

Tanzania is indeed a little different as compared to the rest of the EAC member states. It is the only country in the region that has not been plagued by the curse of tribalism and civil wars that continue to eat up not just East African nations but most of Africa.

Therefore when they (Tanzanians) call for caution against the so called ‘fast tracking’ of the community we need to open our ears and heads. After all, Uganda and Kenya are still embroiled in the squabble over a small island (Migingo).

Like most Tanzanians, I am really confused by the fact that other nations are determined to move at breakneck speeds to form one big country yet unity in their small units is still a mirage.

There is an interesting issue that some people love to pick on when blaming the Dar leadership. This is the issue of using national identity cards as travel documents.

The position by the Tanzanians was and still is that an identity card should not be used as a travel document.

Indeed, an ID is simply for identification while a travel document shows one’s will to travel. By choosing IDs as travel documents, we may end up  having thousands of people travelling with no purpose. Why are we silent about the East African passport which is cheaper than other national passports?

Are we also forgetting the fact that Uganda and Tanzania have no national identity cards? Or that the ones used by Kenyans are of a very poor quality that some schools in the region are offering better ones?

As if to add salt to the wound, the process of acquiring new cards in Kenya has been mired by corruption just like was the case in Uganda. All those blaming Tanzanians feign ignorance of these facts.

The principle of mutuality will serve us better. Those countries that prefer certain methods can go ahead and use them as they wait for ( and not condemn) the Tanzanians.

For example Kenya and Rwanda have an understanding that abolished the use of work permits in either country.

I think we need to take one step at a time if we want this community to last. Even the European Union was not set up in one day.     

The author is a social commentator living in Kigali

ssenyonga@gmail.com

 

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