However, suspicion and tension is growing among EAC states. On one hand Tanzania’s reluctance to participate in EAC meetings has slowed down regional integration. On the other hand, tension and possible war between Rwanda and Tanzania over the ongoing crisis in the Democratic Republic of Congo could further weaken regional ties.
There is also a low-level trade dispute between Kenya and Tanzania. Trucks moving goods from one country to another are slapped with fees, which hinders trade between the two countries. Kenya and Tanzania are also yet to agree on issues pertaining to tourism.
Fearing domination by Kenya, Tanzania for instance whose tourism industry competes with Kenya’s and Burundi which has an inexistent tourism industry do not buy the idea of a common tourist visa for EAC that Kenya, Rwanda and Uganda have agreed upon and are likely to implement before the end of the year. Tanzania is also lukewarm to the idea of free movement of people. Uganda, Rwanda and Kenya have reached a common ground on allowing their citizens to use identity cards in lieu of passport when crossing common borders.
Like Burundians, Tanzanians are generally less educated and skilled than Kenyans and Ugandans and fear they may lose out if the country opened its doors to better qualified neighbours. Tanzania is also opposed to Kenyans, Burundians and Rwandans taking over farmland.
Tanzania is large, rich in natural resources, including gold, diamond and lately has discovered large gas deposits. It also has rich agricultural farmland but a low population density. It has 46,912,675 inhabitants and a population density of 50 per square kilometers compared to Rwanda which has 11,689,696 inhabitants and a population density of 444, the highest on in Africa, excluding Indian Ocean islands such as Mauritius. Burundi with 379 inhabitants per square kilometer follows Rwanda. On the opposite side, there is Kenya whose land is mainly arid and semi-arid and is less endowed with natural resources such as minerals but has a more developed manufacturing sector which needs regional markets to survive. Kenya also has the most skilled manpower in the region and this would benefit it if labour movement in the region was effective.
Tanzania has put in place stringent conditions for foreigners intending to work in the country and it has expelled those it calls “illegal immigrants”. It has increased work permit fees up to 3000 dollars a year. Among EAC, only Rwanda and Kenya have agreed to scrap work permit fees for each other’s citizens seeking work in their respective countries. Tanzania’s work permits for East Africans are the most expensive followed by Kenya, Uganda, Burundi and Rwanda.
Observers say cracks within the East African Community could widen if current misunderstandings are not nipped in the bud. Burundi and Tanzania are slowly being isolated from the rest. The absence of Tanzania at two consecutive AC leader meetings is a pointer to division lurking in the organization. Analysts say Tanzania prefers SADC to the EAC and may be slowly weakening its ties with the EAC despite hosting its headquarters in Arusha. The leaders of Rwanda, Uganda and Kenya have now decided to pursue integration with or without Tanzania and Burundi. However, Tanzanian officials deny that their leader was not invited at the two EAC heads of state meetings.
The EAC has clearly not learned lessons from its earlier failures. It collapsed in 1977 only after a ten-year existence. The same reasons still divide the organization, namely suspicion that Kenya, the largest economy of the bloc, is the main beneficiary of the regional integration process. There were also political differences between Uganda and Tanzania before the organisation’s collapse in 1977 similar to the tension currently prevailing between Tanzania and Rwanda. One of the reasons cited for including Burundi and Rwanda in the community was to lessen disagreements between original member states which led to the 1977 collapse. (C.B.)