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Is Zanzibar really involved in the integration of the East African Cooperation?

The grumbling gained momentum when it emerged that Zanzibar has oil and natural gas reserves.  With the formation of East African Community people on the Isles think it is time to cut themselves off from the Union that was formed with Tanganyika in 1964.

In the beginning the complaints were linked to the opposition in the 1990s and early 2000s, but now under the Government of National Unity (GNU) with no opposition, backbenchers and ministers have joined forces "to fight for the rights of Zanzibar in the union."

Legislators in the Zanzibar House of Representatives and senior ministers are now more out spoken when talking about Union and have repeatedly accused officials in the Union government of sidelining Zanzibar in almost all issues that need Zanzibar's full involvement such as the formation of East African Cooperation (EAC) now at the stage of developing a common market.

However, some people are looking for answers as to which side of the Union is telling the truth after the 48 years. The most recent attack by Zanzibari officials on the Union government is the application made by the Ministry of Land, Housing, and Settlement Development Professor Anna Tibaijuka, requesting the United Nations for an extension of the   Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) from 200 to 350 nautical miles. Legislators unanimously said no.

Another issue is the involvement of Zanzibar in the process towards the revival of East African Cooperation (EAC). Backbenchers and ministers raised their voices directly or sometimes with a cautious tone that the Union government "is cheating Zanzibar on matters that need Zanzibar's input."

At a meeting organised by the Ministry of East African Cooperation in collaboration with Zanzibar's Ministry of State- President's Office (Office of International Cooperation and Coordination of Zanzibar Diaspora) most of the lawmakers suggested the halting of EAC discussions until internal (Union) disparities are resolved.

Mr Abubakari Khamis Bakari, a legislator for Mgogoni on the CUF card and a minister of Constitution and Legal affairs, and his colleague for Kitope on CCM ticket Mr Makame Mshimba Mbarouk (CCM- Kitope) said "Zanzibar is tired of being dragged by officials on the mainland on issues that should involve Zanzibar."

The minister said, "I may plan a motion in the house proposing the ban of one of your books on East Africa from entering Zanzibar, because it distorts the role played by Zanzibar on the East African Airways. Nowhere in the book is Zanzibar mentioned to have contributed in the Airways. This is unacceptable if we really need to build our union in the new EAC."

Mr Mabrouk said there was no need rushing in reviving EAC before solving Union problems such as abolishing double taxation, equal sharing of the aid from donors, and other issues. But Mr Saleh Nassor Juma a representative from Wawi constituency in Pemba Island was of the opinion that EAC process should stop until "the fate of the current structure of Union is known in the course of writing a new constitution."

He said, "What if people decide to change the current structure of the Union, from the current two to three governments? We must be careful," he said. Prior to the discussion by Zanzibari lawmakers, Zanzibar Second Vice President Ambassador Seif Ali said that apparently there are still many Tanzanians who are afraid of the formation of East African cooperation and due to uncertainty of its impact on their lives.

Seif observed that the potential loss of jobs and competitive markets are some of the worries. "We want all our people in all regions of Tanzania including Zanzibar get the right information about the importance of EAC, therefore the role of legislators in awareness campaign remain important," Seif said at the gathering on "East African Cooperation to lawmakers in the islands."

The vice president said that people's perception on EAC can only change if legislators properly understand the "importance and challenges of having EAC." He has in several occasions emphasised that problems of the Union should be resolved through dialogues.

The Deputy Minister of East African Cooperation Dr Abdallah Juma Abdallah, the Ministry's Permanent Secretary (PS) Ms Stergomena Tax, and Mr Bernard Haule from EAC office joined forces to impart knowledge of EAC to Zanzibar legislators after similar seminar was organized for members of business community in Zanzibar.

In his efforts to make members of the Zanzibar House understand, the deputy minister for East Africa mentions that "Cooperation among people of east Africa has existed for decades, a proof that EAC is important." Amid some murmuring voices to express dissatisfaction if Zanzibar in the East Africa, the PS emphasized on providing correct information and avoid distortion and that all along Zanzibaris have been fully involved in the process.

"We have always made sure Zanzibar voices on EAC progress are heard and considered. What is important is for Zanzibar to make sure that it is well represented in the meeting by competent people," Ms Tax said as she told leaders in Zanzibar that there was still ample room for improvement in the EAC.

According to the EAC ministry, Zanzibar has not been forgotten even in development projects, and should expect to benefit with the construction of Karume airport in Pemba Island, support for proposed construction of the new port at "Mpiga Duri," free movement of labour and common market.

The East African Community (EAC) is an intergovernmental organisation comprising the five east African countries Burundi, Kenya, Rwanda, Tanzania, and Uganda. Pierre Nkurunziza, the President of the Republic of Burundi, is the current Chairman of the East African Community.

The EAC was originally founded in 1967, collapsed in 1977, and was officially revived on July 7, 2000. The EAC is a potential precursor to the establishment of the East African Federation, a proposed federation of its five members into a single state.

In 2010, the EAC launched its own common market for goods, labour and capital within the region, with the goal of a common currency this year, and full political federation in 2015

CONCEIVING and raising one child in today’s life ...

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Author: ISSA YUSSUF, Zanzibar

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