11 November 2013

East Africa: Kenya Supports JK Over EAC

Photo: EAC
East African Community Member States: Kenya moves to ease regional tension with Tanzania.

IN a twist of events, Kenya has come out strongly in support of last week's speech in Parliament by President Jakaya Kikwete in which he categorically stated that Tanzania will not pull out of the East African Community (EAC).

In a 'From Nairobi with Love' scenario, Kenyan Foreign Minister Amina Mohamed jetted into Dar es Salaam yesterday and convened a news conference in which she read her government's support of Mr Kikwete's speech.

Addressing Parliament last Thursday, President Kikwete criticised the other East African member states for making decisions on the Community without involving Tanzania Ms Mohamed said her government has read President Kikwete's speech and is pleased with the support Tanzania has shown towards Kenya.

Ms Mohamed defended the decision by Kenya and other member states to hold meetings without informing and involving Tanzania, saying the issues discussed were within the EAC tripartite jurisdiction, which were only meant to discuss minor issues that were not necessarily part of the wider EAC regional meetings' context.

The Kenyan foreign minister said in response to questions that the meeting held in Mombasa was meant to address inefficiencies at the Port of Mombasa in handling cargo, noting that it takes more than 28 days for cargo to arrive in Kampala and even longer to arrive in other landlocked countries. "Because of the inefficiency at this port, it was necessary to bring the matter to the EAC presidential level.

There were no ulterior motives. Tanzania is a founding member of EAC; we are joined at the hip," she pointed out. Ms Mohamed noted that such joint consultative committee meetings were common, adding that they intend to have more of their kind.

"Tanzania has had such meetings as well," she claimed. "This is something that's good, such meetings focus on areas that might have been left out during EAC regional meetings.

Basically, this is not new, it has nothing to do with isolating one member and it is useful to all," the Kenyan foreign minister expounded. She explained that the five EAC member states have been building a Community that has so far recorded a lot of achievements and still has a lot of potential "and this should be upheld."

"We will do all that we can to make sure EAC prospers under the five EAC member states and bring development to all our people," she added.She also praised President Kikwete and the nation's support towards Kenya and the ICC issue, noting that Tanzania has been at the forefront in its support, including speaking out about it during the July African Union (AU) meeting in Addis Ababa in Ethiopia.

"Kenyans depend on your support, without it we cannot overcome the ICC issue," she said, adding that between January and February, next year, the EAC member states are expected to hold a meeting in Nairobi or Dar es Salaam to discuss EAC issues.

The Minister for Foreign Affairs and international Cooperation, Mr Bernard Membe, praised the Kenyan government's move to travel to Tanzania and expressed its support to President Kikwete's speech to Parliament in which he talked extensively on EAC.

Mr Membe said Kenya is the first country to react on the president's speech in Parliament, whose focus is to revert back to one EAC with mutual benefits for each member state.

Mr Membe said EAC meetings held in April, this year had discussed a number of developmental issues, including electricity, railway and ports, whose report was to be issued this month.

He said there were only two issues that Tanzania did not support, a move that was also supported by other member states, which are the issue of land to remain under respective nation's guidelines and adhering to all steps to attaining integration.

"Tanzania has never opposed any of the EAC agenda except that land would not be an EAC agenda and that we should follow all steps agreed upon to reach EAC integration," he explained.

On ICC, Mr Membe said Tanzania has appealed to the United Nations Security Assembly for a one-year respite for the ongoing ICC case involving Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta to give the president enough time to discharge his duties, that include addressing issues of victims of the post-poll violence of 2007.

He said currently, the ICC has postponed President Kenyatta's case from November 12, this year, to February 5, 2014. President Kikwete told Parliament in Dodoma last week that Tanzania was fully committed to the treaty that established the EAC and would not pull out of the regional economic grouping.

He insisted that his administration is determined to see the bloc prospering and that he will do everything in his power to make sure that the five-member community does not collapse.

The EAC is made up of Tanzania, Kenya, Uganda, Rwanda and Burundi. Recently, however, Kenya, Uganda and Rwanda formed the so-called "Coalition of the Willing" (CoW) with the three countries signing a number of agreements, which did not amuse Tanzania. The government blamed the three countries, saying their decision to discuss projects outside the agreed protocols signed sidelined Tanzania.

"Why are other member countries doing this? What has happened? Why are they sidelining us?" the president questioned, adding that prior to April 28, the five countries were good friends.

He told the packed debating chamber that Tanzania was being sidelined in nearly all major projects involving member countries; with the three countries going ahead to separately implement a single customs union prior to the agreement.

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