Arusha — THE Secretary General of the East African Community (EAC), Dr Richard Sezibera, has admitted that there are, "indeed, some political tensions" between Tanzania and Rwanda but has assured member nations in the bloc that regional cooperation was intact.
"The two countries are holding talks and, in fact, already diplomatic procedures are being taken in a quest to iron out all misunderstandings," said Dr Sezibera. He added that the dialogue does not involve the media that is why people think nothing is in progress.
When speaking to the media at the community headquarters yesterday the EAC Secretary General pointed out that the "minor misunderstandings" between Presidents, Jakaya Kikwete and Paul Kagame were actually blown out of proportion by the media.
He said that when heads of state parade differing views on certain matters this does not mean that their countries were about to walk out on the community.
"Our community is being threatened by two potential enemies. There are evil forces that are bent on committing genocide and there are rebel forces and terror groups that are moving about in the region sowing mayhem from time to time.
"Differing opinions are inevitable when it comes to presenting views on how best to address these concerns," said Dr Sezibera. The Secretary General also mentioned the need for the East African Community, which comprises Tanzania, Kenya, Uganda, Rwanda and Burundi to come up with a common ground on how to deal with terrorism and rebel threats within the region.
Regarding the recent issue of Kenya, Rwanda and Uganda hatching own tripartite infrastructural development projects involving harbours, railways and roads outside the East African community, Dr Sezibera said such arrangements were normal and in most cases they serve to strengthen the cooperation between nations.
He also dismissed the criticism on President Kagame that he has not been attending Heads of State Summit meetings but he has been sending representatives.
"Sometimes presidents may not have the time. In such cases they need to be represented. But during the last summit in Nairobi, Kenya, the Rwandan President was present," he said.
Apparently all the summits taking place in Tanzania since 2010 were not attended by President Kagame but as far as Dr Sezibera is concerned that is still not reason enough to cause alarm over the EAC integration.
Meanwhile, nations said to be in the "Horn of Africa" are likely to lose this geographical recognition and descriptive territorial title when Somalia, the country whose land actually makes the horn, becomes part of the East African Community.
The Secretary General for the East African Community, Dr Richard Sezibera said here yesterday that the just started 27th Meeting of the Council of Ministers which is taking place from August 26 to 31, this year, will discuss the wishes of South Sudan and Somalia to join the community.
"The six-day Council of Ministers' session will also be addressing the current status of the East African Community integration process in general," said Dr Sezibera adding that there have been positive developments including accomplishments on the Customs Union, Common Market and the ongoing process involving Monetary Union.
"South Sudan had applied to join the EAC but as per the community regulations, we first had to satisfy ourselves if the country had qualified to be part of the regional bloc. "So we sent a special verification team which has just come back with a report to be tabled before the Council of Ministers' meeting," Dr Sezibera said.
As for Somalia, the EAC boss explained that the same verification procedures are to be followed before the "Horn of Africa" could be annexed into the EAC which as of now comprises of Kenya, Uganda, Rwanda, Burundi and Tanzania. Previously Khartoum, (North Sudan) had officially written to the Arusha Secretariat of the EAC, showing interest to join the East African Community but the application was rejected basing on the fact that the country did not share a common border with any of the current member states.
Should South Sudan get the endorsement to become the sixth member of the EAC, then Khartoum will automatically qualify as a candidate. It is still too early, however, to determine whether Somalia, which has been ravaged by war, is what the East African Community needs at the moment.
The other country which had shown interest to become part of the EAC but is not exactly pursuing the matter vigorously is the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).