BUJUMBURA-The Minister for EAC affairs, Monique Mukaruliza has announced that Rwanda is ready for a political federation, but only after the full implementation of agreed protocols.
She revealed this yesterday, after signing a report to be presented to the heads of state summit slated for Wednesday in the Burundian capital, Bujumbura.
Mukaruliza noted that before rushing for the federation, there is need to fast track and implement the agreed protocols that include the customs union and the common market.
“As Rwanda, we don’t have any problem with the political federation,” she said.
The political federation, once implemented, would ensure that all the member states of the bloc, currently numbering five, are governed by one Head of State.
Though the two protocols; common market and customs union, the precursors of a federation, are in place in the country, some member countries have reportedly delayed their implementation.
During the 24th meeting of the council of ministers that concluded yesterday in Bujumbura, some member countries called for the fast tracking of the federation, an argument that raised controversy among the participants.
The disagreement between the ministers forced the Tanzania delegation to abandon the conference room compelling the remaining ministers to sign the report.
Tanzania’s Deputy Minister for Industry and Trade, Lazaro Nyarandu, clearly stated that land should not be part of EAC political federation, claiming that some of the member countries have been eyeing Tanzania’s land with a “greedy eye”.
“We’ll never allow that, because to do so is to betray our own people. There are member countries that are struggling to bounce-back with the issue of land in the regional bloc’s set-up,” he said.
He stated that Tanzania position was very “firm” and would not be shaken when it comes to issues of national interests.
“The government is committed to ensure that all resources of its people are well protected for their own benefit.”
The minister said that some member countries were trying to refresh past discussions on land, while the issue had been fully discussed during the common market protocol, when it was agreed this would not be part of it.
“As leaders, we’ll never surrender the land of Tanzanians for the interest of the East African Community,” Nyarandu maintained, citing one of the neighboring countries as trying to “re-invent the wheel” on the issue of land.
A Tanzanian Member of Parliament who also preferred anonymity explained that some countries were proposing that the land in EAC should be surveyed, which he noted was a ploy to encroach on their (Tanzanian) land.
“Tanzanians have their own culture, they freely move from one part of the country to the other but there is no day you will find Tanzanians going to Mombasa in Kenya. So, the available land is for Tanzanians and the next generations. We’ll never surrender our land to the EAC,” he said.
Dr Richard Sezibera, the Secretary General of the EAC urged the ministers to urgently implement the agreed protocols, adding that unless this is done, the region risked veering from the main objective.
“We should all urgently work to address those areas where we are seriously behind in implementation,” he said.
He mentioned that areas needing a lot of attention include harmonisation of education systems and curricula, completion of outstanding work on the free movement of services, mutual recognition of academic and professional qualification and movement of workers.