Tanzania’s President Jakaya Kikwete. PHOTO | FILE
Tanzania has initiated talks with neighbouring Burundi and the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) with a view to establishing economic and trade relations following reports of the emergence of a ‘coalition of the willing’ nations within the East African Community (EAC).
The country’s minister for EAC Affairs, Mr Samuel Sitta, said Wednesday in Dar es Salaam that Tanzania had thinking hard after Kenya, Uganda and Rwanda left out the other two members from their infrastructure talks.
Mr Sitta said economically, it was sensible to work with DRC now because the country held immense economic potential in the region.
The minister said plans were in the offing to construct a railway line linking Tanzania to DRC.
“Our problem now is that a road linking us to Goma in DRC goes through Rwanda. But we will construct the rail to Msongati from Uvinza,” he said.
He added Burundi would benefit in cutting down costs since it made more economic sense for the country to import through the Dar es Salaam port than Kenya’s Mombasa port, noting that a Bujumbura businessman who opts for Mombasa travels 900km more, compared o the one who uses Dar port.
Give him space
For some months now, Kenya, Uganda and Rwanda have opted to forge ahead with integration agenda in the absence of Tanzania and Burundi.
The three partners have also debated a protocol to speed up the formation of a political federation.
However, Mr Sitta appeared to be cautious when reacting to the questions from Members of Parliament, arguing that time was not yet ripe for the country to take bold steps in reaction to what other three EAC members were doing.
“It pains if our partners are acting behind our back. But on this issue, I would like to advice you that we should heed a counsel by former President Ali Hassan Mwinyi, who said that a best way of dealing with a liar is to give him space,” he said.
Mr Sitta noted that as part of precaution, the government was now very cautious on its engagements in EAC activities.
“For instance, there is a meeting going on now in Nairobi and the higher authority in the country has directed the minister for Foreign Affairs not to attend. Tomorrow there is another meeting in Burundi whose agendas are similar to what the three countries are advocating and I have directed the deputy minister (who is in Bujumbura for another engagement) not to attend,” he said.