PUBLISHED ON March 2nd, 2015

Tanzania knows from experience that EAC must have firm foundation

On the sidelines of the EAC Heads of Summit meeting held in Nairobi, Christabel Ligami spoke to Tanzania’s Minister for East African Co-operation, also the new chair of the EAC Council of Ministers, on the way forward for the regional bloc following recent reports of misuse of funds.


The EAC Heads of State Summit in Nairobi did not address much of the agenda; issues were postponed to the next summit in April. Why was this so?

The way the Community functions is that decisions have to be finalised at the meetings level conclusively before the presidents pass them.

We have meetings at different levels and at each level there are issues raised that require consultations with partner states. For example, for the key agenda item on the alternative financing model for the Community, no final decision could be reached because the matter is still at the partner states level.

It is the same for the road map for political federation; partner states are still consulting. We hope that come April we shall have something to table before the presidents.

However, this was a special summit to take care of the November summit that was postponed and the key thing was to hand over of the chairmanship to Tanzania which had was not done last year as per the EAC Treaty. So we will see a lot of things emerge in April.

The East African Legislative Assembly accounts committee recently released an audit report showing misuse of funds at the Secretariat, notably on travel expenditure. What are your views on the report’s findings?

This is not a final report and so is subject to change depending on the outcome of the verification process. But we are taking the matter seriously and are already questioning the Secretariat about it issue by issue as raised in the report.

We expect to get answers for each shortfall as per the report, then if we find any misappropriation, we will act accordingly.

What action do you intend to take if you find any misappropriation of Community funds?

I can’t say anything right now until we conclude our findings as the Council on the matter. We need to verify the report findings first.

But we expect that by the next EALA sitting in Bujumbura, we shall have concluded our verification process and that’s when we shall give our final report and what measures we shall be taking. This is just a few days away.

Many are blaming the misuse of money at the Secretariat on poor employment terms and lack of proper administrative policies at the EAC?

This has no connection at all to misuse of the Community funds. It is no ticket to an employee to misuse the Community money.

If you are employed by the Community, it means you are entrusted to do a certain duty by the partner states and you sign for that.

The community is growing fast, in the past 15 year we have put in place a Customs Union, Common Market Protocol and signed a Monetary Union Protocol.

The question is do we have a proper institution to accommodate the expanding mandate of the Community? So this is why we are working on it diligently; it is not just something to rush into because we just can’t change structures after every two or five years.

It is already a priority and that’s why it came to the summit. The progress is so far good.

There has been tension between Tanzania and Kenya on tourism, especially after Kenya banned Tanzanian tour vans from accessing Jomo Kenyatta International Airport. What is being done about it?

It is a media-created tension. Of course it was a very unfortunate development for Kenya to say Tanzania cannot access JKIA. You cannot single out a partner state and stop it from accessing the airport space.

How could Kenya wait for 30 years to slap such a ban? What changed yesterday that was not realised years back? If you look at it critically, it is not a matter that will harm Tanzania alone but will also harm Kenya.

Tanzania looks at JKIA as a regional hub and now you want them to stop looking at it from that point of view and start looking elsewhere or developing their own. This is a simple matter that cannot spoil the good relationship between two countries… we are neighbours and partners. We have to work together because of regional unity.

We shall sort it out with Kenya at a bilateral level as we look to finding a permanent solution. Negotiations are already underway.

What unique contribution can Tanzania make to the integration?

We are partners and we have to move as partners.

We have experience in this matter because we have a Union with Zanzibar and we know that if you do not lay a firm foundation and structures for such a bloc, you will always have problems. We don’t have to rush because we are building an institution and it has to be strong.

We attempted the EAC once and it failed. You can’t just move on without fully implementing the other stages. We have to lay a firm foundation.

What are your priorities for the year as the Council of Ministers chair?

The Summit has set timelines for partner states to ratify the ready key protocols and deposit the instruments of ratification with the Secretary General. We shall work to that.

However we are not pushing any member state, it is their duty. Lack of implementation is a treaty provision where if a certain stage does not augur well then you can stagger until you are sure and therefore if a partner state requests for more time we shall respect that.

Source: The East African

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