Arusha Times (Arusha)

East Africa: What With EAC Headquarters?

Arusha — News doing rounds lately have highlighted a row between the Kenyan East African Community minister and his Tanzanian counterpart. There was a threat to delay the much-awaited EAC Headquarters project planned to kick off this September.

Kenyan minister Kingi had been quoted in the media reports, as saying that the planned construction of the new EAC headquarters should be delayed until Tanzania fully commits itself to regional integration. Failure to do so, they quoted him as saying, would make Tanzania unfit to host the EAC headquarters.

This project dates from the year 1997 when a suitable land was acquired behind the AICC building. Currently, the EAC headquarters is located within the Arusha International Conference Centre complex (AICC Building).

The new building is designed to comply with different requirements. It will provide: sufficient office accommodation to the staff members of the East African Community Secretariat (EACS); the East African Court of Justice (EACJ); the East African Legislative Assembly (EALA); meeting rooms to cater for the Summit and Council of Ministers meetings and a host of EAC's conferences. The building has been designed for maximum flexibility in case of future expansion, and is as much as possible adapted to the local climate.

Germany, the main financier of the construction of EAC Headquarters have already granted a total of Euros 14 million. Initially in 2002 it provided Euros eight million and another Euros six million in 2008 following revised costs due to the entry of two new EAC members -- Rwanda and Burundi -- into the regional bloc in July 2007.

The 'verbal' dispute principally pits Mr. Amason Jeffah Kingi and Dr. Diodorus Kamala whose recent statement to the press confirms that construction of the ultra-modern East African Community (EAC) headquarters in Arusha is irreversible and on course. The multi-purpose headquarters is expected to be ready the latest by September 2011.

At the heart of the Kenyan minister rests an underlying fear of foot-dragging on the ongoing Common Market negotiations, planned to culminate into signing the protocol this April. The assertion raised during the just ended EAC Council of Ministers meeting in Arusha by the Kenyan minister was based on Tanzania's position over land issues, in which he accuses Tanzania of delaying conclusion of the negotiations.

In Dar es Salaam on Tuesday March 3, 2009, Dr Kamala spoke to journalists in response to recent media reports that Kenya was canvassing for the relocation of the Secretariat and had also called for the suspension of the planned construction of the EAC complex. Dr Kamala said none of the member countries could shift the EAC headquarters, as its status and location are enshrined in the treaty establishing the regional body. Dr Kamala, further, said none of the member states had proposed an amendment of the treaty to move the EAC headquarters from Arusha.

According to The Citizen paper published on March 4, 2009, Mr. Amason Kingi, said there was need for "a sober debate on Arusha's suitability" as the headquarters of the regional bloc. Speaking to The Citizen by telephone from Nairobi, Mr Kingi said: "Ours was only a proposal to look afresh at the establishment of all the EAC organs in Arusha. But any decision is left entirely to the Heads of State Summit."

In addition, Mr. Kingi, was quoted by The Citizen paper saying the EAC treaty could be reviewed whenever it was deemed necessary. He said the treaty was not the same as it was in 1999, when Kenyan, Ugandan and Tanzanian leaders revived the EAC, which had collapsed in 1977. "It's regrettable that the issue has been distorted to mean opposition to Tanzania hosting the EAC headquarters, which is not the case. They need not be suspicious but look at the bigger picture," the Kenyan minister said.

The former EAC collapsed 32 years mainly because of divergent political and economic perceptions of the founding member states-Kenya, Uganda and Tanzania. Tanzania's Minister for EAC, Dr Kamala, was recently quoted as saying that Tanzania would not be rushed into the Common Market negotiations which he said could impact negatively on its people, but that the country was still committed to firm talks.

Upon the creation of the Secretariat on 14th March 1996 full operations began in Arusha Tanzania and it was led by Ambassador Francis Muthaura of Kenya who was appointed as the first Secretary-General. Hon. Amanya Mushega of Uganda was the second SG who handed over to the current SG Amb. Juma Mwapachu.

Initially, the Secretariat activities were designed to facilitate co-operation among three founder Partner States [Tanzania, Kenya and Uganda]. The first enlargement, which increased the number of Partner States from three to five, was matched by deepening of the Community's underlying tasks of regional integration. The success of the three member states led Rwanda and Burundi to apply for Community membership in November 2006 and they were admitted in July 2007 after the Treaty was amended.

However, given the overall democratic space that has prevailed in the EAC member states since its revival ten years ago, people's verdict on the EAC performance index has prevailed and is growing by the day, notwithstanding the Kenyan minister's statement on relocating the EAC headquarters.

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