Region to Have Single Currency by 2012


By Felix Osike

New Vision
August 20, 2007

The East African heads of state yesterday resolved to have a common market and a single currency by 2012, then move on to a political federation. While noting the overwhelming support of East Africans for a political federation, the leaders decided to "move expeditiously towards establishing a common market and a monetary union by 2012." The common market would allow the free circulation of goods and movement of the people within the region. To ease this, one common passport will be used within the five countries. The decision came after most Tanzanians rejected the proposal to fast-track the East Africa political federation whose ultimate objective was to have a federal president and parliament by 2013. Tanzania wants a gradual movement towards the federation.

After hours of a closed-door meeting at Ngurdoto Mountain Lodge in Arusha, the leaders called for more time for consultations to take place in Rwanda and Burundi. A statement issued at the end of the meeting said the leaders, after considering the reports of the national consultative committees, "noted the need to mobilise and deepen sensitisation on political integration and stimulate greater political will to promote deeper economic integration." Presidents Yoweri Museveni, Mwai Kibaki (Kenya), Paul Kagame (Rwanda), Jakaya Kikwete (Tanzania), Amani Abeid Karume (Zanzibar) and Burundi's second Vice-president Gabriel Ntisezerana attended the meeting.

The leaders of Rwanda and Burundi, who were attending the summit for the first time since their admission last month, were asked to speed up the process of integrating fully in the customs union which came into force on January 1, 2005. The chairman of the Council of Ministers, Eriya Kategaya, said negotiations among partner states on the common market starts next month. Museveni, who chaired the summit, added that although there was overwhelming support for the fast tracking process in Kenya and Uganda, there was less support from Tanzania mainly because of questions regarding land, employment, security and other natural resources.

"These questions are easy to answer and cannot form an obstacle at all," Museveni observed. According to the findings, most Tanzanians were afraid their country risked being infected with ethnicity problems and corruption that characterise politics in Kenya, Uganda, Rwanda and Burundi. There is also the fear of loss of sovereignty. Tanzanians also fear Kenyans will take advantage to migrate to Tanzania and take up legal rights there.

There was broad consensus from the five partner states that the East African Community should negotiate one economic partnership agreement with the European Union. However, Tanzania rejected a proposal backed by the four nations to allow other countries in it. The summit also adjusted various administrative and financial systems geared at accommodating Rwanda and Burundi. The membership of the Legislative Assembly will now increase to 55 members from the current 33. In his address, Museveni urged the leaders to ensure that the process towards regional integration was not reversed. "All the options are leading to progress and not to stagnation that has characterised the last 50 years in Africa." He said even for the 13 original colonies to agree to form a nucleus of the United States of America was not easy.

"We are all now worshipping the USA instead of worshipping God. The Latin American Spanish colonies which after independence acted differently are now far behind the USA in all aspects of human endeavour. "Europe which was the epitome of fragmentation, war, bigotry etc is also waking up," he asserted. "Some leaders are talking of United States of Africa. Do not under-estimate this view. Eventually, small countries of West Africa have found out, from the experience of the last 50 years of independence that without unity they cannot manage. It is a good movement; it needs to be harnessed carefully," Museveni warned.

Museveni said Africa was the cradle of mankind and civilisation yet it in the last 500 years, "it has bled, been humiliated and lagged behind other continents." "Fifty years after independence, all African countries except South Africa, are still third world countries regardless of whether they have had a violent history or not," he added. He attributed this to the past leaders and the ancestors. "African leaders, past and present are responsible primarily for the misfortunes of Africa," he commented. He also remarked that after independence African leaders failed to "move strategically in order to immunise Africa or insure Africa against future re-colonisation, marginalisation or even extermination of her peoples."

He paid tribute to the late Tanzanian President Mwalimu Julius Nyerere for his strong stance against balkanisation of African countries. "Ever since my youth, I have been a supporter of the formation of the federation of East Africa. That is why I became a strong follower of Mwalimu Nyerere," he remarked.

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