Arusha Times (Arusha)

Tanzania: Fast-Tracking Political Federation

Arusha — Much hyped Fast-Tracking of the East African political federation is a failed move unless imposed against the wishes of most Tanzanians.

The National Consultative Committee tasked to collect opinions of Tanzanians on fast-tracking of the East African political federation has so far found that an overwhelming majority are vehemently opposed to the idea.

It is estimated that about 80 per cent of those who have aired their views have rejected fast tracking as a way of realizing a political federation of the five East African countries - Tanzania, Kenya, Uganda, Rwanda and Burundi. The Wangwe Commission is just about to wind up its task.

Last week, Members of Parliament minced no words in expressing their views opposing the fast tracking move, some of them saying even seeking views is uncalled for and the consultative committee should be dissolved. They said the Tsh.2 billion being spent to seek views is a waste and should be channeled to fight HIV/AIDS.

The EAC headquarters in Arusha also has a deputy secretary general responsible for fast tracking the federation.

"There is no need to speed up the process leading to a political federation. This should come automatically if we lay the foundation. You're squandering people's money. The funds should be used to fight HIV/AIDS, said Dr. Binilith Mahenge, Member of Parliament for Makete.

He noted amid approving applause from other MPs, that a sound foundation in economic integration was what was needed at the moment.

Members of Parliament rejected the idea of fast tracking the East African political federation citing disparities in administration, education, economy and security in the EAC member states.

"Why do we want to fast-track this issue? May be our leaders will tell us, otherwise I don't see the reason why we should take this matter as an urgent one.

MP for Mbozi East, Godfrey Zambi said security in Uganda and Kenya is a delicate issue and that it would be dangerous for a peaceful country like Tanzania to join countries dogged by civil strife.

He said that East African countries leaders were bulldozing the people on the whole issue of fast tracking. "We do not want to be bulldozed," he said.

The MP however may not be right because President Kikwete had at the launch of the committee said that he would respect views and wishes of Tanzanians as far as fast tracking of the federation was concerned. If the president sticks to his words, then the writing is clear on the wall-there will be no fast tracking.

Dr. Chrisant Mzindakaya, MP for Kwela said EAC member states should concentrate on the yet shaky Customs Union and proposed Common Market instead of jumping to political federation which at the moment is beyond their league.

Another MP, Dr. Harrison Mwakyembe backed him saying that it had earlier been planned that the process to a political federation would follow a logical sequence, entailing a Customs Union, Common Market, Monetary Union, etc.

"A political federation is formed by countries which already have national unity within themselves. Look ... Northern Uganda is ungovernable for 20 years now? Will it be governable within the East African federation umbrella?" he wondered.

He said 100 per cent of his constituency members are opposed to speeding up the political federation process.

William Shelukindo, MP for Bumbuli said insatiable thirst for power and wealth is dangerous, implying that leaders who want to see the process speeded up are doing so for their own interests.

He claimed that development of Arusha stalled during the former EAC existence. He said the town started developing again only after the collapse of the community in 1977. He did not elaborate his claims but Shelukindo was then the Regional Development Director for Arusha region.

Last week, a member of the East African Legislative Assembly, Dr. Fortunatus Masha said that the whole process of collecting views of Tanzanians on the fast tracking of the East African political federation was illegal and unacceptable.

The whole exercise, he said, is flawed because before the process to collect peoples views began there ought to have been a "White Paper" explaining in details what political federation is, its formation, mode of operation and social, political and economic benefits for the member states.

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