Tanzania’s love triangle
Nairobi – Tanzania is causing intense political and economic rifts among its East African Community (EAC) and International Conference of the great Lakes Region counterparts after being accused of leaning more towards SADC.
Tanzania, a founding member of EAC together with Uganda and Kenya, and which hosts the bloc’s headquarters in Arusha, is trading more with SADC and supports its political stance internationally while allegedly going against the wishes of its neighbours.
Angered by Tanzania’s action, the EAC Assembly recently reprimanded that country to decide whether it belongs to SADC or EAC, arguing that Tanzania’s stance contributes to severe retrogression that for years has dogged the bloc’s development agenda.
Geographically, Tanzania is located in East Africa but is a member of SADC. The EAC comprises Tanzania, Kenya, Uganda, Rwanda, Burundi and South Sudan.
Recently, the conflict in eastern DRC shifted to the East African Legislative Assembly (EALA) with the regional Parliament taking Tanzania to task over its support for a new UN-sanctioned peacekeeping force following the breakdown in talks between the M23 rebels and the Kinshasa government – a position supported by SADC.
Tanzania chairs the SADC Organ on Politics, Defence and Security Co-operation.
Analysts argue that leaning towards SADC gives Dar es Salaam conflicting obligations to the International Conference on the Great Lakes Region and the East African Community, and places it on a collision course with Uganda and Rwanda, which are opposed to troop deployment under the UN.
According to the East African newspaper, Uganda EALA representative Fred Mbidde is to table a motion calling Tanzania to order over its support for a position contrary to that of EAC.
“We want to urge Tanzania to withdraw from the SADC war resolution.
Our position is that military confrontation can only escalate war. Our position is based on three facts: One, that Uganda and Rwanda may be drawn into an unnecessary war. Two, that Uganda and Rwanda, and sometimes Tanzania, always suffer the humanitarian burden. Thirdly, war can only lead to further proliferation of arms in the region,” he said.
The motion also proposes that SADC and the UN Security Council resolutions for an “offensive international peacekeeping force” against the M23 rebels be kept in abeyance to give dialogue a chance.
But the development comes as Tanzania prepares to seek Parliamentary approval for its troops’ participation in the UN mission.
Tanzania – already engaged in UN peace missions in Liberia, Sierra Leone, Cote d’Ivoire and Sudan – has committed itself to deploying 850 troops in the DRC as part of the UN Security Council-sanctioned 2 000-strong Intervention Brigade.
South Africa, a SADC member with economic interests in the DRC, has also agreed to contribute to the force.
The rebels and the Kinshasa government have been in talks aimed at ending fighting that has claimed many lives and displaced thousands since late last year when a section of rebels that had joined government after a brokered deal opted out and resumed fighting, citing marginalisation.
A UN probe accused Rwanda and Uganda of supporting M23 but Uganda was later absolved.
Uganda’s Defence Minister Crispus Kiyonga continues with efforts to bring the belligerents back to the table.
Permanent Secretary in Uganda’s Foreign Affairs Ministry James Mugume dismissed talk of a rift between Uganda and Tanzania.
“It’s entirely untrue. We are hosting the SADC and EAC Joint Chiefs of Staff… We are doing stick and carrot. We are supporting dialogue but if dialogue fails, then we resort to other means,” he said.
Analysts, however, argue that Kampala’s position may be informed by the desire to appear neutral, following earlier alleged support for the M23.
In economic terms, SADC continues to be Tanzania’s main trading partner, that country’s National Bureau of Statistics report shows.
Exports to the bloc increased from R10.91 billion in 2011 to R20.33 billion, while total commodity exports to SADC stood at 501 344 tonnes, up from 458,796 tonnes in a preceding year.
The country is also very active in COMESA, which is Tanzania’s second-biggest trade partner.
The EAC ranks number three on the list of Tanzania’s top trade partners.
The first EAC collapsed in 1971 following the military coup by Idi Amin Dada against the civilian government headed by Milton Obote.
This followed sharp ideological differences between Kenya’s founding President the late Jomo Kenyatta and Julius Nyerere, and also the insistence by the Tanzanian leader that he could not sit at the same table with the unelected ruler of Uganda.