Club of a suspicious people
Bernard Sabiti, a researcher and public policy analyst also told The Independent on June 24 that he doubts the issues affecting the community have anything to do with the treaty.
“This is a club of suspicious people,” he said, “It seems the East African Community is in crisis even if no one wants to talk about it. Even when they agree on doing certain things, they rarely abide by the protocols they sign. And all the countries are guilty. Everyone is part of the treaty but they are all tend to look inwards.”
Since 1967 when Presidents Jomo Kenyatta (Kenya), Julius Nyerere (Tanzania) and Apollo Milton Obote (Uganda) founded the community, the leaders of this bloc have always been suspicious of each other.
“Tanzania tends to pay more allegiance to SADC than the East African Community. When you also look at the regional conflict currently brewing in the region, Rwanda seems to be in the calculus of the equation,” Sabiti said.
“Even though mobility of people and goods and services is guaranteed by the East African Common Market Protocol, it is still incredibly difficult to move these across the borders of the member countries. A Ugandan who wants to work in Tanzania pays at least US$ 2500 for a work permit.”
“The movement of people and goods within the community needs to be addressed once and for all. How can you talk about a political federation when people cannot move across borders freely?” Sabiti said.
Sabiti says the EAC treaty is a bigger thing but there are smaller elements in the integration process that its leaders should be working on; including the protectionist and retaliatory policies.
According to Sabiti a treaty is easy to change but changing the EAC treaty in the current environment of suspicion might not be easy.
“The treaty is a political statement which can be decided in one day,” he said, “(but) changing it will need consensus from all the member countries yet there are so many political disagreements amongst the members at the moment.”
Dr. Frederick Golooba Mutebi, a regional researcher and analyst, said rather than focus on reviewing the East African Community Treaty, the member states should focus more on building more cohesive relationships.
Mutebi told The Independent on June 24 that even before the community was expanded, there were problems amongst the existing members.
“So even before admitting new members, the current members should be looking at the issues that are preventing the East African Community from achieving its set objectives.”
“The problems that bedevil the East African Community are more political than anything else,” he said.