Over the past years, Tanzania has been branded ‘a lone-ranger’ among other East African Community (EAC) partners on crucial integration concerns including trade and infrastructure development.
Currently, President John Magufuli is out to mend bridges with EAC members, a move that will be of benefit to Tanzania’s development.
On Wednesday (April 6, 2016) President Magufuli arrived in Rwanda for a two-day official visit which coincides with the 22nd anniversary of the 1994 genocide that left more than a million people dead in 100 days.
In his first official visit, Dr Magufuli is set to officiate at the commemoration event symbolizing an end to the claims that Tanzania favored the Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda (DFLR) which Rwanda believes played an active role in the genocide.
“Rwanda extends a special welcome to His Excellency John Magufuli, President of the sister nation of Tanzania! Karibu sana mheshimiwa rais (welcome honorable President),” Rwanda Foreign Affairs minister Louise Mushikiwabo said on Wednesday.
Additionally, the Business Daily reported that presidents Magufuli and Paul Kagame on Wednesday jointly opened the Rusumo one-stop-border- post to improve trade between the two countries.
This further affirms Magufuli’s efforts to restore active participation in EAC matters, unlike his predecessor Jakaya Kikwete, who during his reign Tanzania threatened to leave the regional economic bloc.
“Coalition of the willing”
In 2013, Tanzania threatened to pull out of East Africa Community citing cases of “sustained isolation” by Kenya, Rwanda and Uganda. Speaking about the relationship between Tanzania and the rest of EAC members (Kenya, Rwanda and Uganda).
The fallout was fueled by the formation of a “coalition of the willing” by the three states to push for faster integration in the region.
Subsequent trilateral talks in Mombasa in August 2013 by the regional leaders including presidents Uhuru Kenyatta, Yoweri Museveni (Uganda), and Mr Kagame discussed key proposals to deepen integration without the input of Tanzania. On the other hand, Burundi and South Sudan were invited to the meeting that discussed vast investments possibilities in rail and oil infrastructure.
The extension of the invite to South Sudan- which was not part of the bloc at the time- made Tanzania’s absence even more noticeable.
The Mombasa meeting was after a June convention in Entebbe hosted by President Museveni in which Tanzania was also missing.
On inquiry by the media, Kenya’s State House said that Tanzania had not been invited to the summits because the talks were primarily concerned with easing transport logistics within the “Northern Corridor”.
“They were not invited because, at the moment, we are dealing with the Northern Corridor. This was about the Port of Mombasa and the infrastructure that feeds the Northern Corridor,” said Secretary of Communication Manoah Esipisu.
The Northern corridor connects Rwanda, Uganda, landlocked South Sudan, and Burundi to the Port of Mombasa.
All these fueled Tanzania’s outrage over the integration scheme that sidelined it.
In a parliamentary meeting in 2013, Tanzania’s minister for EAC Affairs, Samuel Sitta said they were ready to leave the bloc instead of waiting for a “divorce certificate” from Kenya, Rwanda and Uganda.
Tanzania puts its national interest first
According to Prof Phillip Nying’uro, an international relations expert, of the three original member countries of the EAC, Tanzania is the only country that puts its national interest first ahead of those of the region or other countries.
“Unlike the rest who append signatures to virtually every protocol, Tanzania has a tendency of very carefully weighing each treaty before committing herself. The country, for instance, opted out of COMESA (Common Market for East and Central Africa) to the SADC (Southern African Development Commission) bloc because of clear benefits and goodwill,” Nying’uro was quoted by the Standard.
In the recent past, however, Tanzania has been forging collaborations with EAC member states, a move that will further grow the region that was recently ranked first among other regional integrations in the continent.
Last month, Magufuli and Kenyatta announced the launch of the Arusha-Tengeru dual carriageway and a bypass road in Tengeru as part efforts to smoothen the flow of cargo between the two countries.
“We want to take our friendship and relations to higher levels by implementing projects that impact positively on the lives of our people,” the Heads of State said in a joint statement following a meeting on the sidelines of a regional summit in Arusha.
Currently, Kenya and Tanzania are in a tussle over which of the two countries will partner with Uganda in the construction of a crude oil pipeline. Uganda is yet to decide on which route to take although Britain’s Tullow that has both interests in Kenya and Uganda, argued that a partnership between Uganda and Kenya would be cheaper.
This it said pointing that connecting Kenyan fields, which have estimated total recoverable reserves of 600 million barrels, with those in Uganda would make the pipeline project cheaper on shared costs.
Speaking in Rwanda, Magufuli called on East Africans to use locally available resources to improve their lives and cut dependency on assistance.
“This is my first foreign visit since I became President of my country. I am not a traveling person mostly because of the attendant huge costs and I am a cost cutting person, but when I received President Kagame’s invitation to visit, I did not hesitate. For the two days, I will be in Rwanda, I will learn a lot.”
Image credit: Village Urugwiro