The current crisis, resulting from Ugandan President Idi Amin's expulsion of Asians and the recent confrontation with Tanzania, is reportedly leaving its mark on the East African Community (EAC).
The current crisis, resulting from Ugandan President Idi Amin's expulsion of Asians and the recent confrontation with Tanzania, is reportedly leaving its mark on the East African Community (EAC). Observers believe the situation threatens the economic future of the group as it enters its sixth year of existence.
The EAC, which groups Tanzania, Uganda and Kenya in the form of a common market with shared services, came into existence on December 1, 1967, with its headquarters at Arusha, in Northern Tanzania.
Since then, the community has passed through and survived several difficult periods. During the latest crisis, the basic services of the countries continued to function normally. The East African Airways maintained its schedules, although through the year it was threatened with spiralling costs and financial ruin. The East African Railways kept to its timetable, and the telecommunications system, including telephone, telex and cable, functioned without a break.
For the past twenty months, since Uganda's ex-president Milton Obote was overthrown by General Amin in January 1971, the Supreme Council of the EAC, comprising the three heads of state, has not met. Mr. Obote found refuge in Tanzania, whose President Julius Nyerere has not recognised General Amin's Government. He also refuses to sit at the same table with the General. However, the more specialised councils, dealing with ports and harbours, the airline, railway and telecommunications, have continued their sessions.
The border between Tanzania and Uganda was closed for several months after Obote's overthrow, but it was reopened and trade almost returned to normal. Now the border is closed again and observers say it is impossible to guess how long the state of affairs will last. As one observer in Nairobi puts it: "The EAC has weathered storms in the past and may well survive the current crisis. But the effects of the latest troubles will certainly be far more lasting than any of its previous difficulties."
SYNOPSIS: Tanzania...troops patrol Bukoba township after violence flared between Tanzania and Uganda, in an incident that placed a heavy strain on the East Africa Community, of which both countries are members with Kenya. The conflict broke out in mid-September, three months before the community was due to enter its sixth year of economic co-operation. Exiled Ugandans based in Tanzania reportedly crossed the border, and President Amin retaliated with raids on the guerrilla bases.
It was in Kampala in March 1967 that the East Africa Cooperation Treaty was signed. President Kenyatta of Kenya, doctor Obote, the then leader of Uganda, and President Nyerere of Tanzania met in the Parliament building to study the final documents.
Under the terms of the treaty, the community was to share joint customs, posts, telegraph, rail and port facilities, and an international airline. At the time of the agreement there was little sign of the internal conflicts that were to follow. Many Africans though it was the most promising adventure on the African continent. They believed political federation was a possibility.
In January 1971, General Amin took over power in Uganda, when he deposed Or Obote. It was reported Dr. Obote sought refuge in Tanzania, whose President Nyerere still refuses to recognise the Amin Government. For several months after the coup the border was closed, until General Amin ceremoniously reopened it. But after the recent conflict it is once again closed.
The Community was placed under further strain when East African Airways, the group's joint international airline, ran into financial trouble. Suffering its first operation loss in 13 years, the airline was reported to be near bankruptcy. It was General Amin's controversial insistence that his expelled Ugandan Asians fly East African Airways, which enabled the company to lift itself out of possible financial ruin. Earlier in the year the airline declared 750 workers redundant because of its spiralling costs.
The opening in 1970 of a joint satellite Communications Station in Kenya by President Kenyatta, was considered a great step towards unity. But the objective of the federation is reported to be further away than ever because of the recent upheavals. President Amin has said that national interests should come before the interests of East Africa.