By: Daniel K. Kalinaki
Kampala: President Museveni has invited Tanzania and Burundi to a key regional integration summit in Kampala today (Thursday) to join President Paul Kagame of Rwanda and President Uhuru Kenyatta of Kenya.
President Pierre Nkurunziza of Burundi missed the last summit in Kigali while President Jakaya Kikwete was not invited, raising criticism that the so-called Coalition of the Willing (CoW) was driving a wedge between the East African Community member states.
A senior Ugandan foreign affairs ministry official said the invitation extended to Tanzania’s President Jakaya Kikwete was a sign that the initiative “is undertaken in good faith to deepen, rather than weaken, regional integration” in the EAC.
Mr Premi Kibanga, a spokesperson for President Kikwete, said yesterday that the Tanzanian leader, who is preparing for a major constitutional summit in Dodoma next week, would send his deputy, Dr Mohammed Gharib Bilal, to represent him in Kampala. Ugandan foreign affairs ministry officials said they expected President Nkurunziza to attend or send representation.
President Kagame had arrived in the country by press time with Kenya’s President Kenyatta also expected.
The presidents are expected to launch an East African single tourist visa, part of a slew of reforms aimed at integrating the region’s economies.
Tanzania and Burundi are yet to sign on to the initiative, which will allow tourists to use one visa to travel across the three participating EAC member states.
The heads of state are also expected to formally launch the use of national identity cards as border-crossing documents, which started in January.
Updates on refinery project
The fourth Northern Corridor Integration Projects Summit, which follows earlier meetings in Kampala, Mombasa and Kigali, is also expected to hear updates on plans to jointly develop an oil refinery in western Uganda, a crude-oil export pipeline, and a standard gauge railway line from Mombasa to Kigali with a spur to Juba, South Sudan.
President Salva Kiir of South Sudan, which has applied to join the EAC, was also invited to the summit after attending the last one in Kigali.
Uganda, Kenya and Rwanda launched the Single Customs Territory during the last summit in Kigali. The heads of state are expected to receive updates on how the system, which allows for taxes to be paid once at the first port of entry into the region, and which went live in January, is operating.
Sticking issue of political federation
Pact expected. The presence of all five EAC member states might unlock a discussion on fast-tracking the political federation but it is not clear how much unanimous agreement will be reached in Kampala. A security pact is a likely step towards shared sovereignty while the more arduous discussions on political federation continue.
Critics. Political federation remains contentious. After featuring in the first two summits in Kampala and Mombasa, it appeared to fall off the agenda in Kigali, amidst complaints from Tanzania that the meetings were discussing a core pillar of EAC integration in the absence of two community members.
Tanzania is opposed to Uganda’s efforts to fast-track political federation alongside the establishment of the Monetary Union.
Source: Daily Monitor