Uhuru, Kikwete meet to end tiff
Updated Saturday, November 9th 2013 at 22:30 GMT +3
|East african presidents|
By JUMA KWAYERA
Kenya and Tanzania have initiated high-level contacts to forestall possible falling out in the East African Community.
President Uhuru Kenyatta and his Tanzanian counterpart Jakaya Kikwete’s meeting came on the back of fears that Tanzania is considering shipping out of the 15-year-old economic bloc in favour of either Southern African Development Community (SADC) or one with Burundi and the Democratic Republic of Congo.
The two presidents met on the sidelines of a joint summit of SADC and the International Conference on the Great Lakes Region that discussed the conflict in the DRC.
Tanzania’s future in EAC is expected to be a key issue at the council of ministers meeting set for next week in Arusha. The ministers’ meeting precedes the Heads of State Summit scheduled for November 29-30 in Kampala.
It now emerges that EAC’s largest country maybe considering retaliation that would involve punitive trade tariffs levied on goods and service from the three countries, which would be a re-enactment of what Tanzania’s founding President Julius Nyerere imposed when the first phase of the regional grouping disintegrated in 1977 following ideological differences.
Although Foreign Affairs Principal Secretary Karanja Kibicho would neither confirm nor deny the two presidents met, a senior ministry affairs official confirmed they did.
The Standard on Sunday had contacted Kibicho to shed light on details of the Monday meeting and if the two discussed former Prime Minister Raila Odinga’s offer to mediate in the standoff. Kibichio, who accompanied the president, replied: “I am out of the country. I will get back to you later.” However, he did not.
Possible retaliatory actions available to Dar turn out to be Kenya’s soft underbelly in regional economic and trade relations. Available data from the EAC secretariat show Kenya investments in Tanzania top $1.2 billion (Sh108 billion) as of April this year, making it the second foreign investor after Britain. In the same period, Tanzania’s exports to Kenya had surpassed $300 million (Sh27 billion), up from $95 million (Sh8.5 billion) at the signing of the EAC Customs treaty in 2004.
Trade between Tanzania and Uganda on the other hand has picked up slowly. In 2004, Tanzanian exports to Uganda hit $15 million, improving to $175 million in 2009. At present Kenya’s Gross Domestic Product is roughly $19 billion, compared to Tanzania’s $17 billion, having overtaken Uganda’s $11 billion since the coming into being of EAC Customs union when the latter was ahead at $9 billion and the former $7 billion, thanks to mineral exports and a booming tourism industry. Commenting on the sudden cooling in relations in EAC, Prof Amukowa Anangwe warns of an imminent social and political disruption in the common market of 120 million people.
“Regional economic integration schemes are not a tea dispenser that you turn on and off at will. So when some members threaten to walk out, they must realise investors in these economies have short-term and long-term goals that must be realised. So when some member-states are disengaging, they hurt many interests,” says Prof Anangwe.
He points out that when EAC Customs union was realised in 2005, the region became an instant investment option.
“At the time, most of investments were headed to Tanzania and Uganda. Foreign Direct Investments’ destination was Nairobi because of its status as a regional economic hub. Most of what donors are giving are loans and not grants. So if there is break-up, we shall have to go through what the old EAC experienced. This would hurt the credibility of individual countries in the eyes of investors,” says Anangwe.
Anangwe, a former minister of State in retired President Moi’s government when the EAC idea was mooted, teaches at Dodoma University, Tanzania. Kikwete on Thursday told parliament his country will not pull out of EAC. He, however, took a swipe at Kenya, Uganda and Rwanda for isolating his country.
“They have pulled out of the community and now are meeting in a group three. However, whatever they discuss are the same issues that affect us all. But there remains many unanswered questions... Have these three governments lost confidence in the community and are now planning to start their own? Do they want to mistreat and force us out? Why are they hostile to our country? do they hate me personally,” he lamented
Tanzania’s Minister for EAC Samuel Sitta had sounded a warning that Dar will not sit back and wait to be kicked out the regional bloc.
The minister said his government was considering a countermove, which analysts warn would be injurious to all regional economies. Dar es Salaam lent credence to the suspicions when it agreed to a United Nations request to donate troops to the Monuc (UN Mission in Congo) peacekeepers that have been battling to stamp out of Rwanda-backed M23 Congolese insurgents from the eastern DRC.
The move by Tanzania, in addition to forcibly relocating Rwanda refugees from its territory, sparked an immediate angry response from Rwanda, with the foreign minister threatening to expel the latter’s ambassador. It is noteworthy that Tanzania military incursion in eastern DRC has the blessings of the UN Security Council, which in multiple reports accuses Rwanda and Uganda of stacking their economies with proceeds of mineral and forests plundered from the war-ravaged central African nation.
Tanzanian lawyer and business analyst Deo Balile says the realignments in the region are necessitated by the prevailing reality in which Rwanda and Uganda have increasingly taken the character in agents provocateurs in the internecine Great Lakes Region conflicts.
“There are significant structural differences in our economic and business set ups that need to be sorted out before Tanzania agrees to free labour movement, single tourist visa, joint infrastructure development or harmonised customs services,” says Mr Balile as he explains Tanzanian heightened wariness with developments in EAC. While Arusha-based Kenyan lawyer Bobi Odiko agrees with Balile, he says Dar overreacts when member-states discuss bilateral relations or projects.
“The Arusha-Namanga road was a joint Kenya- Tanzania bilateral project. When the deal was struck, the other states did not complain. Granted, some of the reactions are informed by history, but on the whole there is a clear dispute resolution mechanism that can address some of the concerns,” says Mr Odiko, who is a communications officer with the East African Legislative Assembly.