Tanzania, one of the founding members of the East African Community (EAC), is feeling increasingly isolated by three countries in the regional bloc and has sought official explanation for recent developments, raising fears of a split.
A government statement on Monday said many Tanzanians have been left asking themselves questions following recent reports of meetings by the heads of state of Kenya, Uganda and Rwanda to discuss EAC matters without involving Tanzania and Burundi.
The meetings were organised by the foreign ministers of the three countries, and not by the EAC Secretariat based in Arusha, Tanzania.
Tanzania is particularly unhappy with a 24-25 June, 2013, meeting of the three heads of state in Entebbe, Uganda, where a number of strategic issues that are already on the EAC agenda were discussed and resolutions passed.
Among those issues are: 1) Construction of a modern Mombasa-Kampala–Kigali railway line covering 2,784 kilometers;2) Construction of Juba-Kampala-Kenya oil pipeline; 3) Building of an oil refinery in Uganda; 4) Increasing electricity generation; 5) Opening of a single customs territory); 6) Fast-tracking of the EAC political federation; 7) Use of national ID cards instead of passports; and 8) A common tourist visa.
Tanzania pointed out that the founding protocol of the EAC is clear that while member states are free to enter into bilateral or trilateral agreements, the subject of such agreements should be discussed and agreed upon by all countries of the bloc.
During the 27th EAC Council of Ministers meeting held in Arusha on 31 August, 2013, Tanzania demanded to know the future of EAC in light of the Kenya-Rwanda-Uganda union. The Council directed its chairperson to deliver the explanation by November.
It is not clear why the three nations have decided to forge closer links without involving Tanzania and Burundi. But Tanzanian President Jakaya Kikwete and his Rwanda counterpart Paul Kagame have exchanged angry words after Kikwete suggested months back that Kagame should enter into peace talks with Rwandese rebels operating in eastern DR Congo.
On the other hand, both Kagame and Uganda’s Yoweri Museveni have positioned themselves as close allies of Kenyan president Uhuru Kenyatta and have been vocal in calling for charges for crimes against humanity at the International Criminal Court to be dropped. President Kikwete has not been so vocal.