Dar's opposition won't stop EAC integration By FRANCIS AYIEKO THE EAST AFRICAN Posted Saturday, November 22 2008 at 09:30 One of the main pillars of a Common Market is free movement of persons, yet there is still no agreement among the EAC partner states on the issue. Just what is the disagreement about? Tanzania is opposed to the use of national identification cards as instruments that facilitate free movement of East Africans across the region. They argue they don't have ID cards at the moment. They also argue that by international definition, ID cards are not travel documents and do not provide sufficient security details. These arguments go against the intention of establishing the Common Market, which is supposed to facilitate free movement of persons. It is basically supposed to create a borderless region. Well aware of the need to the facilitate free movement of East Africans across the region, the EAC Council of Ministers, in 2002, decided that there is need for Uganda and Tanzania need to urgently start issuing ID cards to their citizens. In 2007, the Council restated the need for Uganda and Tanzania to fast-track the issuance of ID cards. That decision was tied to free movement of persons. There was no agreement on this matter during the Zanzibar meeting, but the position of Kenya, Uganda, Rwanda and Burundi is that EAC member states must comply with the Summit decision to create an EAC Common Market. The main bone of contention under the right of establishment and right of residence clause has been the issue of land. Why doesn't Tanzania agree with the other partner states on the matter? Tanzania argues that land is not a Common Market issue and there is no need to include it in the Common Market protocol. But the other four partners are clear that the objectives of the Common Market cannot be achieved without addressing land issues. How can partner states co-operate on matters of environment, for instance, without involving land issues? The other four partners maintain that land must be included in the Common Market Protocol because it is the common denominator of co-operation in the region. The four also want the protocol to include the acquisition, ownership and use of land. This item has been on the agenda since the beginning of the negotiations. In the spirit of co-operation, the other four partner states agreed to let go the issue of land acquisition and ownership. However, they argued that access to land should be included in the protocol. They also agreed to put in place mechanisms to ensure that Tanzania's concerns on land ownership are taken care of. Such mechanisms would include allowing people from other member states to access land in another partner state through the use of leases and other agreements that can be defined. The partners also argued that access to land should be governed by the laws of the specific country. This is very unusual because a regional protocol is supposed to be superior to national laws of individual member states. They did it only to accommodate the fears of Tanzania. But again Tanzania said no. They argued that they have investment legislation that govern access to land. Why is Tanzania opposed to the clause on permanent residence? Tanzania argues that some people from the other partner states had lived in the country for over 30 years and had even been given the opportunity to apply for permanent residence but they refused to do so. They argued that this clause would give such people permanent residence through the backdoor. Under international practice, when you have worked in a country for more than five years, you are allowed to apply for permanent residence. The country to which you are applying has a right to grant or refuse you a permanent residence permit. Is there any sign that Tanzania is committed to the EAC integration? One fundamental thing that came out consistently during the recent Zanzibar meeting was that Tanzania repeatedly said it is committed to the integration process and the Community, but it wants to go slow on the negotiations of the Common Market. That was telling in many ways. What action are the other partner states likely to take should Tanzania continue being recalcitrant? The Treaty for the Establishment of the East African Community currently provides for consensus as the basis for decision-making. But with the challenges we are currently facing in terms of agreeing on various issues, the question that is being asked is if we want to continue with consensus as the basis for decision-making. Or do we want to amend the Treaty to provide for decision-making based on majority rule for those who are ready to move forward to proceed and those who are reluctant to join later? This is consistent with Article 7 of the Treaty, which says that if a country is not ready to move, it can take its time. This is understandable because there is the issue of unequal development, fear and culture. There is, therefore, a need to fast-track the amendment of the Treaty. No. The discussions have not stalled. The discussions have just allowed Tanzania to go and consult on those issues and come back to the Council. On the request of the High Level Task Force and the Secretariat, the conclusion of the negotiations on the protocol has been extended to April next year. In the meantime, the Task Force will be working on horizontal articles, which basically deal with policy issues and define details to be included in the annexes and schedules. Wouldn't the extension affect the operationalisation of the Common Market? No. The full implementation of the Customs Union is expected to end in 2010. So there is still time. If Tanzania is finally not convinced of the need to continue, the Treaty will be amended to allow for majority rule as the basis for decision-making. The other four partner states will then continue with the Common Market. If the protocol is concluded in April, there will be enough time to deal with its operationalisation in 2010.