Reports that a Tanzanian delegation did not attend an East African Community (EAC) Council of Ministers meeting in the Burundian capital, Bujumbura, last week, owing to what it called attempts to bring back discussions around land issues in light of the envisaged political federation, demonstrate the amount of work that remains to be done to achieve full EAC integration.
For some time now, land has been one of the sticking issues in the EAC integration process, with Tanzania, particularly, coming out strongly to resist what it perceives as efforts by the other partner states to ‘encroach’ on its relatively vast territory. Indeed, if there’s anything that is set to test the resilience of the EAC integration project, it is land.
Yet nobody should make a fuss out of these open difficulties in the integration process. Delivering any socio-economic and political integration is not something for the faint-hearted. It takes courage, consistent engagement and the highest political will to truly unite sovereign and independent nations, each with strong attachment to their traditions.
The integration process is a step at a time; success at one stage takes you to the other. That’s why success of Customs Union and the Common Market protocols is a key to both the Monetary Union and Political Federation.
Although the continued debate over some of the fundamental components of the integration process could lead some to think that the EAC still has a long, bumpy way to go, such differences should encourage the proponents for the EAC integration to work even harder to ensure that the integration dream comes to pass.
Most importantly, once the EAC citizens start to enjoy the full benefits of the integration process, they will support the integration cause. This is a process that can only succeed if driven by the people, and therefore, it is important that the citizens see the benefits soon.
Only then shall they agree to reach a compromise for the sake of the integration cause.