What if Mwanza city hosted East African Community? Friday, 27 November 2009 11:22 | Written by Administrator | AUGUSTINE SANGI IF I were to select the permanent seat for the East African Community (EAC) , I would chose Mwanza city, on the shores of Africa's largest fresh water Lake Victoria. The city is the country's major port on the lake and a major centre of economic importance in the region. The lake borders the countrys East African neighbours - Uganda to the north west, and Kenya to the north east. Export and transport between the countries is a foundation of Mwanzas economy. The EAC is the regional intergovernmental organisation consisting of Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania, Rwanda and Burundi with its current headquarters in the northern Tanzania town of Arusha. The treaty for its establishment was signed on November 30, 1999 and went into force on July 7, 2000 following its ratification by the original three partner states Kenya, Uganda and Tanzania. Rwanda and Burundi acceded to the EAC treaty on June 18, 2007 and became full members of the Community with effect from July 1, 2007. Being the the second largest city in Tanzania after Dar es Salaam, Mwanza is strategically located on the southern shores of the lake in the northern part of the country. It's the capital of Mwanza Region which has eight administrative districts, namely Nyamagana, Ilemela (constituting the city), Misungwi and Kwimba to the South, Sengerema and Geita to the West, Ukerewe to the North and Magu to the East. With a population of 0.5 million people increasing at a rate of 11% a year, Mwanza city is spread over 1,325 km2 of which 900 km2 is covered by water and 425 km is dry land. Approximately 86.8% km2 (20%) of the dry land is urbanized and the rest is forest, valleys, cultivated plains, grassy, and undulating and rocky hill areas. The city serves as an administrative and service centre for Mwanza Region, Lake Victoria Zone, and neighbouring countries of the Great Lakes Region. It is also a major transit centre of goods destined for neighbouring countries such as Uganda, Rwanda, Burundi, and Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). Industrial and agricultural activities dominate the economy in Mwanza, which has more than 100 small to large scale manufacturing and processing industries. The largest group of industries is food and beverage - fish processing, breweries, soft drink factories, bakeries, cottonseed oil industries among others. Other industries are timber, garage, fabricating workshops, ginneries, foam and plastics factories, tanneries, soap making, quarry sites and animal feed production. An estimated 46,700 people are fully occupied with agriculture. However, the number is decreasing due to urbanization. Livestock raising is also a major economic activity in the area, particularly dairy cattle farming. I prefer Mwanza to Arusha for several obvious reasons. Mwanza is at the centre of the five East African member countries and is also accessible by air, road, and water. Besides it is in the middle of all five capital cities of the member states, namely Dar es Salaam (or Dodoma?), Nairobi, Kampala, Kigali and Bujumbura. It was for the same reason - centrality - that Arusha won the criterion of being picked up by the former authorities of the EAC, which collapsed in 1977, to be the community's seat. But the town is located farther east of the region. Early this year, one of the EAC-member countries, Kenya, objected to the commencement of the construction of the new headquarters building in Arusha, but fell short of mentioning its preference. A Kenyan delegation lead by the Minister for East African Cooperation, Amason Jeffar Kingi, in their objection argued that the inclusion of Rwanda and Burundi in the Community disqualified Arusha as the centre-point of the region. It called for a fresh look into the matter. But their objection could only make sense if they could point out their preference and let other members of the community dwell on the matter and reach a consensus. Otherwise the missing preference left vacuum for speculation that they wanted the headwaters of the EAC to be shifted elsewhere, and most likely to Nairobi which is closer to Kampala, Kigali and Bujumbura but very far from Dar es Salaam and infamous for slums and crime. But why deny Tanzania the seat? Seemingly, this is because Kenya felt that Tanzania was not fully committed to the regional integration, particularly when it rejected the sensitive issue of ownership of its land by citizens of other community members, the rejection which very much hurted Kenya whose land is owned by a few affluent individuals. In prompt response to the Kenyan delegation's objection, Tanzanian Minister for EA Cooperation, Dr Diodorus Kamala, said categorically that there was no possibility of relocating the EAC headquarters from Arusha. He also emphasized that there were no plans to suspend the proposed construction of the EAC Secretariat's 14 million Euros complex in the northern city of the country. Dr Kamala pointed out that construction would start towards the end of this year and was expected to complete in 24 months. Furthermore, Kenya's Vice President, Kalanzo Musyoka, brushed aside Kingi's delegation views when he said in Mombasa, Kenya, that there was no controversy on Arusha as EAC headquarters because the treaty that established the regional body clearly stipulated the northern town as its permanent seat. Suggestions or proposals, however, are no bad things, particularly if they are not ill-intended and are constructive. Although the EAC treaty clearly stipulates under Article 136 that the seat of the Community shall be in Arusha, but this does not deter any member of the community from advancing suggestions or proposals for a new seat. Any citizen, institution or member of the partner states can propose the amendment of the treaty and such changes are only adopted after a consensus is reached by all the five states. The EAC was set up with a view to widening and deepening co-operation among partner states in, among others, political, economic and social fields for their mutual benefit. To this extent, EAC countries established a Customs Union in 2005 and are working towards the establishment of a common market by 2010, subsequently a monetary union by 2012 and ultimately a Political Federation of the East African States. Maswali yangu: Je Mwanza imeshafikia kigezo cha ku host EAC? Maoni yako wewe mwana JF ni nini kuhusu hili?