East African integration: We must seize the day, the hour!
Posted Monday, November 4 2013 at 02:00
“Ants on the locust tree assume a great-nation swagger …
So many deeds cry out to be done,
And always urgently;
The world rolls on,
Ten thousand years are too long,
Seize the day, seize the hour!”
Poem “Reply to Comrade Kuo Mo-jo”, by Mao Zedong, 1963.
In January 1961, the late Mwalimu Julius Kambarage Nyerere made it clear that he was willing to delay the independence of Tanganyika (granted in December 1961), to coincide with that of Kenya and Uganda - with the three new states merging into a federation. This was revolutionary, to say the least - which same spirit was to inspire Mwalimu’s consistent militant support for the African liberation movement.
We are supposed, vividly remembering Mwalimu’s inspiring vision and dream, to be celebrating the very concrete results of the third Infrastructure Projects Summit recently held in Kigali, to wit: a Single Customs Territory to eliminate all remaining non-tariff barriers within the northern corridor; decisive movement on a standard gauge railway from Mombasa to Kigali; decisive movement on oil pipelines, refinery development, power generation and transmission.
Instead, we have been treated to unfortunate lamentations, which I am sure make Mwalimu shift uneasily in his final resting place in Butiama. In summary, the lamentations are that Tanzania and Burundi have been isolated, that the tripartite process runs counter to the spirit of East African integration, etc. I think these have so far been appropriately and ably answered by my friend Dr Richard Sezibera, Secretary General of the East African Community.
But, it is still our pan-Africanist duty to add a few remarks. First, if we looked again at the Treaty Establishing the East African Community, the crescendo of lamentation would immediately tone down. A number of principles there-in, are instructive. We speak here, for example, mainly of the “principle of variable geometry”, as contained in Chapter One, Article 1 of the treaty dealing with interpretation.
There, the “principle of variable geometry” is defined as “the principle of flexibility which allows for progression in co-operation among a sub-group of members in a larger integration scheme in a variety of areas and at different speeds”.
It may, similarly, be useful to look at the “principle of asymmetry” as defined in the treaty as meaning “the principle which addresses variances in the implementation of measures in an economic integration process for purposes of achieving a common objective”.
In August 2004, presidents Daniel arap Moi, Benjamin William Mkapa and Yoweri Museveni, met in special summit in Nairobi. They were bothered by the disturbingly slow pace of integration and “resolved to examine ways of expediting the process so that the ultimate goal of a political federation is achieved through a Fast Track Mechanism”.
The presidents set up a committee to “examine ways and means of fast tracking the EAC political federation, which carried out wide consultations and presented its report at the 6th Summit Meeting on November 29, 2004” - headed by then Attorney General of Kenya, Amos Wako.
Then East African Community Secretary General Juma Mwapachu was quoted in Tanzanian media in May 2007, as saying the Wako Committee had “put the cart before the horse”. Explaining his remarks later, he said the terms of reference of the Wako Committee were never to look into the “fast tracking of the political federation”, but the “fast tracking of the process leading to the federation”! Naturally, it is not within our purview to speculate on how such a difference in interpretation of understanding of the terms of reference of the Wako Committee could have arisen.
Suffice it for now, to draw the attention of the reader to the central recommendation of this committee, which made very extensive consultations.
The Wako Committee, “After considering the … options, in line with both … generic issues raised earlier and more specific advantages and disadvantages of each option, … is recommending the overlap and parallel approach. This is the approach based on an Overlap of Parallel Stages of Integration.”
Finally, it is important to remind those worried about a federation that in the Treaty Establishing the East African Community, we all committed ourselves to the federation. In the treaty, we boldly vowed to build “an East African Community, with an East African Customs Union and a Common Market as transitional stages to and integral parts thereof, subsequently a Monetary Union and ultimately a Political Federation”.
Mr Mafabi is the Private Secretary/Political - Affairs State House. firstname.lastname@example.org