Tanzania finally signed a crucial report to fast-track the East African Community integration after its complaints were addressed by the Heads of State and Government in a Summit in Bujumbura.
The Tanzanian team had refused to sign the Council of Ministers report that was presented by chairman Musa Sirma to President Kibaki, Pierre Nkurunziza (Burundi) and Yoweri Museveni (Uganda), Dr Mohamed Gharib Bilala (Vice-President, Tanzania) and Rwanda’s Prime Minister Pierre Damien Habumuremyi.
Tanzanian East African Co-operation minister Samuel Sitta said his country appended its signature to the report after the Heads of States and Government agreed to amend contentious areas.
“The Heads of State could not sign without negotiations as we had been left out,” Mr Sitta told journalists on Wednesday.
For instance, the Summit approved the protocol on co-operation in defence subject to amendment of Article 17 to provide that the partner states shall negotiate and conclude within one year hence a Mutual Defence Pact.
Mr Sitta said Tanzania is against a section in the protocol that requires partner states to assist each other when in war.
“There are circumstances that do not make sense. Why should you help your neighbour when he is the aggressor,” Mr Sitta said.
Mr Sitta said the Summit also agreed not to include the issue of land on the report on the fears and concerns of east Africans on political federation and instead stick with what was agreed on common market protocol.
Mr Sitta explained that Tanzania has always been careful on handling of EAC issues since it suffered the most when the community collapsed in 1977 “as we had invested more in harbours and railways”.
“This is why we are asking practical questions,” Mr Sitta said after the communiqué agreed upon by the Heads of States and Government was read by EAC secretary general Richard Sezibera.
The communiqué also indicated the leaders approved EAC industrialisation policy and strategy.
The Summit further endorsed the protocol on prevention and combating corruption and that on immunities and privileges for EAC, its organs and institutions.
It proclaimed that the second East African Legislative Assembly will end on June 5, 2012 and the third will start on the same date.
It directed the council of ministers to present progress made on proposed single customs territory to the 10th extra-ordinary Summit in April.
The leaders mandated the EAC secretariat to produce a road map for establishing and strengthening the institutions identified by experts as critical to the functioning of customs union, common market and the monetary union.
The secretariat is to also formulate an action plan to operationalise the recommendations of experts on east Africans concerns, fears and challenges on political federation.
The Arusha-based team is also required to propose an action plan on, and a draft model of the East African Political Federation for consideration in next Summit.
Giving a verdict on why Sudan could not be admitted in EAC at the moment the leaders led by President Kibaki gave six conditions that the Africa’s biggest country should have met.
They include acceptance of the community as per the treaty, adherence to universally acceptance principles of good governance, democracy, the rule of law, observance of human rights and social justice.
Others are potential contribution to the strengthening of integration within the East African region, geographical proximity and interdependence between it and EAC partner states, establishment and maintenance of a market driven economy and social and economic policies being compatible with those of the community.
“The Summit observed that this application does not meet the criterion on geographical proximity and contiguity and cannot therefore be considered at this point in time,” the communiqué read.
On South Sudan, the EAC leaders directed the council of ministers to verify its application on the basis of the criteria for admission of foreign countries and submit its recommendation to next meeting.
The leaders launched the Strategy (2011/12-2015/16) EAC Development whose theme is deepening and accelerating regional integration.
On the East African Development Bank/Blueline case, the leaders directed the Attorneys General of partner states to meet with lawyers of the bank and the community’s lawyer to formulate a specific legal position on way forward.
The Summit also welcomed and expressed support for Kenya’s operation in Somalia to safeguard peace, security and stability in Kenya.
They also supported the Kampala accord regarding the regional political peace initiative in Somalia involving the African Union, European Union, Inter-Governmental Authority on Development, Indian Ocean Commission, the United States Peace on Somalia and EAC.
In his speech, Mr Sezibera said the community should speed up implementation of issues agreed upon.
“The community should be implementers not negotiators,” he said.
He said attainment of single market is on course and that steady progress is being made in elimination of non-tariff barriers.
He said actualisation of common market has picked up since the beginning of the year.
President Nkurunziza said: “We are about to turn our region into a single customs union.”
“Our people should be enabled to live and move as East Africans. Governments and legislatures should remove hurdles. Let us support East Africaness,” Mr Nkurunziza said.
During the Summit it was also agreed that Tanzania should host the East African Swahili Commission.