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Tanzania President Vows to Keep Nation in Regional Economic Bloc

Tanzanian President Jakaya Kikwete said his country remains committed to the five-nation East African Community even after it was excluded from recent key meetings, though he warned against fast-tracking integration.

Kikwete questioned why Rwanda, Kenya and Uganda failed to invite his government to attend talks on Oct. 28 in which a draft regional constitution was discussed. Rwandan President Paul Kagame hosted his Kenyan counterpart Uhuru Kenyatta and Ugandan leader Yoweri Museveni for talks on a single-customs territory that is being established in the bloc.

“We agreed earlier in April that the EAC cabinet secretariat should form a task force and look at the best modality of implementing the single customs territory and its report is supposed to be tabled” on Nov. 30, Kikwete told lawmakers yesterday. “However, our colleagues from Kenya, Uganda and Rwanda decided to go further and start preparing a regional draft constitution. Okay, if it was fast tracking integration, why didn’t they involve us?”

Tanzania’s government warned in September its exclusion from regional discussions on infrastructure earlier this year undermined the community and risked splitting up the bloc. Last month’s meeting marked the third time Kenya, Uganda, Rwanda excluded Tanzania from talks on regional infrastructure projects. Burundi, the fifth member, also wasn’t invited.

The EAC has a combined population of 135.4 million people and a gross domestic product of $84.7 billion, according to information on the website of its secretariat. The community is negotiating a monetary union and ultimately a political federation, having established a common market in 2010.

Integration Risks

Fast-tracking that process risks having key stages of integration being implemented only partially, Kikwete said.

“Most Tanzanians supported the existence of the East African Federation but they want it not to be done hurriedly,” Kikwete said, citing a 2006 survey on regional perceptions of integration. “They want it to be done with great care and go step by step as outlined in the treaty that set up a standing EAC.”

Three quarters of Tanzanians support the existence of the community, while only a quarter back fast-tracking its integration, he said.

“These figures explain the truth about the feelings of Tanzanians on the existence of the federation and the speed of its implementation,” Kikwete said.

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