Events in the past week indicate to a section of observers that it has been a defining moment in the process of East African integration, a sort of make or break instance, not in its immediate impact but in its medium term and long term implications.
It was a week in which President Jakaya Kikwete met with top officials of the EAC Secretariat, specifically holding talks with Secretary General Dr. Richard Sezibera, and similarly conferred with East African Legislative Assembly Speaker, Margareth Ziwa. On the latter note in particular the president was forthright, noting that the EALA has an advisory role in relation to legislative processes in the EAC member states, and is not empowered with imposing policies, directives.
The meeting with top EAC officials followed caution directed at Tanzanian members of EALA from certain quarters and finally expressed by the president himself, after a few weeks earlier EAC affairs minister Samuel Sitta had derided the consensual mood at the EALA.
He remarked that Tanzanian MPs in the regional legislature were being carried away by peer review pressures, intimating vaguely on their lack of experience as legislators, to imply that what they have agreed should not be taken seriously - and also they should gather more strength and be more Tanzanian in their participation in EALA work. That is more or less what was heard in broad areas of commentary concerning the moods of our EALA team.
If there were ifs and buts to that sentiment as to how authoritative it should be taken, the president’s remarks as presented by his directorate of communications should make the position much clearer, as to what gear or gauge the EALA should expect Tanzania to stand vis a vis initiatives from that quarter.
It is however unclear if these sentiments of marginal distress at ‘speed and standards’ in the EALA, or at least their view of what constitutes effective legislation for EA integration, are felt only in Tanzania or other countries may to an extent feel the same. What is apparent, however is that our MPs did not bring up anything radical at EALA, nor was it a matter of controversial plans; just a positive view of integration.
The president’s remarks in his consultations with the two EAC top officials was interesting from a bona fide Tanzanian point of view, for political watchers at any rate, as it raised precisely the sort of sentiment that a few of the president’s own foes are railing about in relation to the Union.
They are demanding that the Union be based on a ‘contract,’ and that is what the president told the EALA Speaker notably, that the regional legislature should operate within the matrix of contracts signed between the member states, within those limitations. In other words it should not constitute itself into an ‘organic body’ which becomes the source of law on its own, because the basic law is already settled.
While this is clear at the level of EAC constitutionality as it were, it raises a few problems at the level of the spirit of integration, precisely in the manner in which the idea of a contractual relationship between Mainland and Isles irritates a broad section of the public on the Mainland.
Everyone knows that the Union operates on the basis of consensus between the two parts, not a situation where each legislates on its own and there is no meeting point, save by auxiliary negotiation, that is, by the two governments. The Tanzanian view rules out a proper legislative role for EALA, if the legislature is not a source of law.
In terms of ethics, the Tanzanian view is guilty of the moral maxim ‘treat thy neighbor as thou wishes to be treated,’ as we opt for a curious maxim, ‘the spear if for the pig; to a man it is painful,’ in denying a proper legislative source for EALA and expecting to ride freely with a Union legislative role, while the Isles has its proper legislature.
Assuming that the spirit of integration in the EAC is similar to that being pursued with Zanzibar, there is a level at which common practices or change can be put together when representatives of the various countries agree, for our EALA members are available to the Ministry of East African Cooperation where the government as a word to say. It is the spirit of consensus at issue.
What the presidential clarification of the formal position on EALA initiatives is that the Tanzanian side is non-integrationist in outlook, only cooperating for some mutual benefit, whose final perspective is a working East African Customs Union. The whole project of rationalizing East African Common Market structures shall have to be taken up at some other day, when for instance Tanzania starts privatizing its major parastatals and needs more capital flows at the Dar es Salaam Stock Exchange. At that time it shall be possible to raise foreign dealers’ purchase of shares of local firms more than 20% current limitation, which cannot be legislated at EALA and expect that Tanzania will accept such legislative initiative, now.
There are however some marginal indicators that institutionalism in the EAC shall grow rather than slacken in the coming months and years, on the basis of some observations in other parts of the zone as well. Each of the three major partners has a transitive electoral period to think about, where real change is expected in both Tanzania and Kenya, starting with the latter as President Mwai Kibaki bows out at the turn of the year, or at the end of the first quarter next year as polls are now billed for March 2013. Tanzanian polls have three years from now to wait, despite a never ceasing electoral atmosphere among the leading political parties, and within the ruling party, as if the presidential nomination was next year.
With tumult in the cabinet, dissension in ruling party ranks, diminishing standing with donors that has been amply reinforced by the blatantly incomprehensible shooting of television journalist Daudi Mwangosi, not to speak about a highly tense process of constitutional review, the self confidence, not to say arrogance on our part may not last long. Regional integration is effective, just like global institutions like the UN Security Council, when the pride of powerful nations has been dented from devastation often arising from war, and in Africa, systematic political instability. We are not there yet, evidently, but there are significant signs that we aren’t immune from instability due to economic inefficiency, poverty.
That is why it is vital to read the process of integration in the EAC from the viewpoint of where each country has reached in its sociopolitical process, either of seeing the error of its political ways and being ready to be supervised by supranational institutions, or still holding out with its socioeconomic model, despite all odds.
That is why Tanzania is the more reluctant partner in the EAC system because it has not been through the sort of troubles that other countries have experienced, in which case it is less capable of reform than they are likely to be susceptible for the same. In the case of Kenya for instance, it never disrupted the socioeconomic structures cultivated by the colonial system, a working market, contracts.
For the moment it has to be accepted that no consensual spirit of integration exists for the whole of EAC zone, as Tanzania is far too large within the set up for any significant move towards the common market unless it signs up. That is what our EALA members have been trying to push, for a greater understanding of the need for right of establishment for other EAC member state citizens, which Tanzania has rejected.
The moment of change is unlikely to be too far away though, as the government is failing to reconcile interests of farmers and herders on the one hand, and investors on the other as an intrusion to both groups – in which case the likely synthesis is adopting a market format where anyone buys and sells land, so that there are no complaints about investors. This shall also be helpful for right of establishment for those coming from EAC member states, and accepting two passports for Tanzanians living outside…