THE new three-winged East African Community's (EAC) Headquarters Complex has been completed here and the EAC secretariat is in the process of moving in, shifting from their previous rented offices at the Arusha International Conference Centre (AICC).
The EAC is nearly 14 years old now but not without its problems, one of which happened to be the contested location for the regional headquarters, which has been established in Arusha.
Some members wanted it relocated elsewhere, saying Arusha was no longer the central position now that the EAC has five members (Kenya, Rwanda, Uganda, Burundi and Tanzania), figuring that Mwanza or Bukoba, in the lake zone should have been more appropriate.
There were even those who wanted the complex be built in Kenya precisely Nairobi, arguing that the City was better equipped technologically and communication-wise to effectively pivot the community in the ever developing digital era. Therefore, as the EAC keys into its new building the haunting question:
'Will this new, giant structure become the Ark which will save the regional bloc from social, economic and political floods or it is going to be the Titanic to sink it?' So we trekked down the streets of Arusha and managed to talk to a few local residents here who also gave their opinions about the EAC, its new headquarters and the future of the five-state regional cooperation aspiring to make a political federation.
The first was Mr Boaz Mollel, a resident of Kimandolu ward, who said: "The East African Community's presence in Arusha boosts the area's image as well as turns around the City's economy for the better." "The new EAC building, for instance, is another beautiful landmark for the town but inside there you will find many people from all the five partner states working, which means employment has been created."
"But the community has also been good on infrastructural development. Already we have the Namanga-Arusha highway, a road which does not only link Tanzania and Kenya by extending to Athi-River, but also helps to take development as well as improving all areas through which it passes.
But Mr Aaron Masanja, who lives in Sakina had some reservations. "While I am happy that Arusha hosts the EAC headquarters, I also tend to feel that the location where the building now stands was a bit inappropriate," he said. "Arusha, as you know, has ample open spaces outside the town, hence the idea of squeezing the new structure in the already congested plot next to the AICC wasn't exactly proper as it is not helping the town to expand," added Mr Masanja.
The Sakina resident was of the view that the EAC offices should have been constructed far away from town to ease traffic jams, structural congestions as well as aiding development and town expansion. Mr Salvatory Jombo of Kijenge was more concerned about the occupants of the new complex or rather their nationalities.
"While it is good to have the EAC headquarters in Arusha, we are not sure if the ratio of employment among nationals is being strictly observed. We therefore call for authorities to look into this matter lest a certain country gets favored above the rest," he said.
"The EAC will bring challenge among Tanzanians to work harder, competing with other nationals from the other four member states, but it is still appropriate to ensure that the secretariat balances its staff stable on nationality basis," he said. Ms Grace Jackson, a resident of Sanawari, a stone's throw from the new building seemed more impressed by the economic value of the new complex and this is what she said:
"Having and owning a permanent headquarters for the Community will help strengthen East African Union. The new buildings are also going to ease the rent burden the five member states shoulder," she stated. As far as she was concerned, "the other positive development is the Arusha-Athi River Road via Namanga, which is an important corridor for the cross-country economy. It now remains for Tanzania, Kenya, Uganda, Rwanda and Burundi to come up with a 'single' international EAC passport to ease movement of their people."