16 October 2016

Africa: Are We That Weak to Fear Common Visa?

Photo: NAN
U.S. visa (file photo).

I have always maintained keen interest in my country's foreign policy issues--be it in East Africa, Southern Africa, continent or globally. I developed this interest a long time ago as I had the opportunity of opening my eyes very early on.

I knew when my country core value was African liberation, to fight repression anywhere in the world and to push for close relations with countries which we wished to belong to as a bloc--socialist world. We were very clear on our stand on Palestine as against Israel, we supported Cuba which was suffering under United States embargo and we stood for China because we saw a true friend very early on.

Pan Africanism was the key to our foreign policy as far as Africa was concerned and hence Tanzania was on the forefront in the African Union which made a large section of South-South economic emancipation and we kept East African brotherhood which passed through hard time and we have stood very steady fast on the Southern African Development Corporation.

It is now very evident that our foreign policy is changing very quickly-at a blink of an eye. We restored relations with Israel and exchanged ambassadors; we have come closer to Vietnam, and we are embracing Morocco leading to some of us asking if it was at the expense of its neighbour--Western Sahara Territory-- it has been forcefully occupying, while we also ask with Israel if it is at the expense of Palestine.

We are now pushing for economic diplomacy strongly, something I thought would open us more especially as we are understood to be Pan Africanists and hence opening our borders towards that core goal we kept for ourselves--the United States of Africa.

In the last few months, things that happen in our Foreign Office have caused me to wonder whether we have made good decisions in as far as foreign policy was concerned.

Tanzania was part in welcoming South Sudan into the EAC even before we strengthened our footing there, but also even as the country is yet to fully embrace democracy, human rights and rule of law.

We have backed out of the Economic Partnership Agreement, almost at the last moment, probably sending wrong signals to other partners in the EAC. Probably our defence would be it was for the long interest of our country.

There has been also the issue of Common Visa, which allows or would have allowed for a tourist to have a single visa that would give him free door to Kenya, Rwanda and Kenya--who have already penned the agreement-and of course to Tanzania.

Again, Tanzania has backed out. Of course we know such decisions are made at a very high level but we have also the right to question them looking from other angles not necessarily seen by the policy makers.

We are afraid we would be looked upon as being un-decisive when it comes to making decisions--timely, bold and common decisions. We should not be looked at as being weak, as always fearful of being dominated, or will be taking advantage of other members of the East African bloc.

If we want to open let the Pan African spirit of opening up our borders thrive, let us consider that in everything there is give and take and finally let's prepare ourselves to curve the best for us, and not left over reserved for us.

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