After posting a comment on my Facebook page on Tanzania's exclusion from the East African Community, one of my friends quickly reminded me of what has become a common phrase that "Tanzania is dragging its feet and we shall move on without you". Well, the threats are coming to fruition, with the rapid rise of "the coalition of the willing" of Kenya, Uganda and Rwanda and most recently South Sudan. The coalition of the willing is a phrase that has been coined to refer to the commitments of Kenya, Uganda and Rwanda to go it alone without Tanzania and Burundi. See my previous analysis on EAC woes here.
Having bilateral or for this case, trilateral meetings between and amongst states within the East African Community setup is not a problem. The Treaty of the EAC however, in Article 6 on the fundamental principles of the Community, is governed on mutual trust, political will and sovereign equality; peaceful coexistence and good neighborliness; and peaceful settlement of disputes. What Kenya, Uganda and Rwanda are doing is right pursuant to their national interests but not within the spirit of the Treaty. The Treaty establishes key organs which aid the running and operations of the bloc. These include; the summit, the council, the coordination committee, sectoral committees among eight other institutions. The summit which is composed of the Heads of States meet at least once a year to map and discuss important issues concerning the community. The recent meetings by the heads of Kenya, Uganda and Rwanda dubbed as integration summits can be described as a mini summits. Tanzania has now been excluded from these meetings in three occasions now. They first met in Uganda, then in Mombasa and this week met in Kigali. It is no brainer that there is a deliberate attempt to exclude Tanzania and Burundi from "their" affairs. The coordination committee which is made up of permanent secretaries responsible in respective country's EAC ministry is involved in the coordination of activities agreed by the summit and the council. The sectoral committee is involved in different sectors concerning the community such as infrastructure. The actions by the three countries which were centered on infrastructure should have involved both the coordination committee and the sectoral committee as agreed by the Treaty.
South Sudan has been seeking to join the EAC. This was evidenced by the attendance of Salva Kiir, the President of South Sudan. Article 3 of the Treaty talks about membership and conditions for admitting a new member. In Article 3 (2) states that "The Partner States may, upon such terms and in such manner as they may determine, together negotiate with any foreign country the granting of membership to, or association of that country with, the Community or its participation in any of the activities of the Community. The meeting of the three states with South Sudan could be interpreted as going against the provisions of the Treaty since not all partner states were present when meeting South Sudan even if the subject of discussion wasn't on membership admission.
Speaking in Parliament yesterday, Tanzania's East African Cooperation Minister Samuel Sitta threw spanner into the works when he said Tanzania's cooperation with DRC and Burundi was feasible. Mr. Sitta went on to say that Dar could divorce itself from the community. Methinks that he was just trying to be cynical whilst trying to flex Tanzania's muscles. Tanzania and Rwanda have had simmering tensions ever since President Kikwete called for Kigali to negotiate with the rebel outfit FDLR. Tanzania went forth to send her troops as part of the UN intervention brigade to DRC to help neutralize armed groups in the Eastern part of DRC. This did not auger well with Rwanda's president Paul Kagame. Tanzania has also been carrying out a nationwide operation to weed out illegal immigrants with many Rwandans falling victims. This also heightened the tensions.
Tanzania remains an integral component of the East African Community and a reliable partner. With Tanzania sharing a border with all the other four states, its influence remains very important.