Last week the so called Coalition of the Willing (CoW) surreptitiously forged by Kenya, Uganda and Rwanda, was swept under the carpet and the three members accepted, grudgingly, Tanzania and Burundi into their fold.
The CoW members had no option, given the mastery delivery, a week earlier, of President Jakaya Kikwete’s speech on the issue.
Dr Kikwete’s speech, which was not only air-tight, but also legally and diplomatically laced, was the best he has ever delivered since he became the President of the United Republic of Tanzania eight years ago!
However, much as the CoW members appear, on the surface, to have buried their bustard baby, but Tanzania should treat the three members with utmost caution!
For there are all signs that the three countries are still scheming, particularly against Tanzania, and the latter does not seem to have learnt anything from the breakup of the original EAC!
And talking about the ‘signs’ one has simply got to listen very careful to Presient Uhuru Kenyatta’s speech when he was inaugurating the construction of the standard railroad from Mombasa to Uganda to pick up those hidden hints!
The Kenyan president was very sarcastic about claims made by Tanzania and Burundi that they were being isolated.
After being forced to establish a new airline (Air Tanzania Corporation which we are still building!), at a staggering cost, and other services which had hitherto been handled jointly, Tanzania still believes that countries like Kenya, Uganda and Rwanda are serious in the EAC project!
The fact of the matter is that the three countries are not, and whatever they do about the EAC is always aimed at fulfilling their own hidden agendas!
For instance, for Rwanda, it is about survival, and they have every right to do that and one cannot blame them!
After overcoming the trauma of the 1994 genocide, the Rwandan government has always been forced to look over its shoulders for the former General Juvenal Habyarimana’s troops in the Democratic Republic of Congo, DRC.
It is therefore the hope of the Rwandan government that through the federation, they would be able to solve the threat posed by the former Rwandan army and interahamwe.
For Uganda, their involvement in the EAC project is more or less similar to that held by the Rwandan government.
President, Yoweri Museveni, would very much like to be the first president of the EAC federation.
The realization of such a dream would help the Ugandan president in getting away from the ‘heat’ he is presently facing in Uganda!
It’s not sexy when a whole director general of intelligence and security just releases some nasty information on your succession plans and finally disappears into oblivion!
Museveni knows once he becomes the EAC Federation president, his enemies in Uganda would not be able to pull the carpet under the feet of whomever he has installed in Kampala as they would be severely and jointly dealt with by the combined defence forces of the region.
As for the Kenyans, their reason for being part of the EAC project is somehow different. They want a bigger market and of course, the land which they could use in off-loading part of their countrymen!
By the way, do you remember how the land question almost threatened Uhuru’s campaign during the March general election?
All the three countries’ personal wishes, as narrated above, can only be realized if Tanzania, whose country’s size can accommodate all the four-kenya, Uganda, Rwanda and Burundi, agrees to play the ball!
For now, Tanzania has not. Its reluctance to play the ball has been brought about after its populace said they were against fast-tracking of the EAC Federation.
And the reluctance was put in better perspective by President Kikwete in his classic speech, when he said: “We have experience in our own Union (the first and only surviving one in Africa) with Zanzibar.”
Last week, Uganda’s leading English daily, The VISION was very visionary when it wrote that one of the main reasons behind the formation of the CoW was Kenya’s fears that Tanzania would soon overtake her as the biggest economy in the region through its decision to construct the the Bagamoyo port which would be the biggest in Africa.
The paper noted that it was because of such fears that Kenya had managed to influence the two other countries to embark on the construction of a massive infrastructure in the form of standard railroads that would wean Uganda, Rwanda from the Tanzanian ports, and in particular, the planned construction of the Bagamoyo port.
What the VISION did not however, say is what had motivated both Uganda and Rwanda into joining Kenya.
The truth is that much as the Rwandan government has always disassociated itself from the M23, the fact is that their (M23) presence in eastern DRC (before they were destroyed by UN intervention force) had always helped the Rwandan regime in keeping in check the former Rwandan army and interahamwe forces.
However, after the arrival of the Tanzanian troops under the umbrella of the United Nations intervention force along with troops from South Africa and Malawi, and under the command of a Tanzanian General, Kigali sulked!
And as if that was not bad enough, the worst later happened, the destruction by the UN intervention force of the M23, hence the disappearance, into thin air of Rwanda government’s dreams!
Therefore President Museveni’s impatience in becoming the new chief executive officer of the EAC Federation helped him in becoming a willing player in the ‘defunct’ CoW with the other two presidents from Kenya and Rwanda!
The Tanzania government should now look critically at what I have just narrated, and it will discover that the three issues are still relevant and cannot therefore be swept under the carpet as long as Tanzania does not play the ball!
What should Tanzania do? Should they rush into the EAC? No, they should not! Doing that would be suicidal!
In fact, Tanzania does not need to waste its time in this animal called the EAC which is presently being pushed, left, right and centre, by our so called Development Partners whose intention is nothing but to get a bigger market!
It is important for Tanzania to bear in mind that ‘those pushing’ EAC countries into the Federation actually want to later use others into bringing pressure to bear on what they consider to be their would-be biggest prize, the United Republic of Tanzania, which does not only have arable land galore, but also all kinds of minerals, including gas and oil.
Therefore the best way of dealing with the CoW, is for Tanzania to do exactly what Kenya, Uganda and Rwanda did as the CoW lasted, and do it very fast, get into construction of standard railroads that would support Bagamoyo port as soon as it’s construction is completed!
Tanzania should approach the same country, China, which provided them with the loan for the construction of the Bagamoyo port to get another massive credit for construction of a network of standard rail in the country that would link Bagamoyo port with countries like Zimbabwe, Malawi, Zambia, Burundi and the DRC.
Without linking the new Bagamoyo port with a robust network of railroads, the port could easily be reduced into a massive store for storing imports rather than a gateway of both imports and exports to the rest of the world!
Tanzania’s efficiency in running both the rail network and Bagamoyo port would eventually force countries like Uganda and Rwanda to turn to Bagamoyo port!
The beauty of Tanzania embarking on such project is that it will keep the country in a very strong economic position regardless of whether or not Tanzania is in the EAC!
At the end of the day, Tanzania would not find itself in the same quagmire it found itself in when the original EAC collapsed in June, 1977!
For after the collapse of the original EAC, Tanzania found itself sagging with a massive burden of having to establish new infrastructure after losing those it had jointly participated in, in their construction and which were located in Kenya.
For instance, it had to urgently look for fund for re-establishment of its communication link after losing Longonot in Kenya by building the Mwenge Satellite!