Tanzania’s latest snub towards the Coalition of the Willing came late last week when officials called the recently launched common tourist Visa for Uganda, Rwanda and Kenya a ‘security risk’ and a threat to its economy, reasons immediately dismissed as laughable and a blatant attempt to discredit the fast tracking of a number of objectives, where the entire East African Community of five members failed to make progress over a number of years.
‘The Tanzanians have dragged their feet for too long, they are spoilers and just envious of the success of others where they have failed They are trying to dictate the pace of things or rather, throwing spanners in the works of increased cooperation’ blasted a regular source in Nairobi when the news broke of the rejection, while other cooler heads still tore into the reasons offered by Dar, though using more diplomatic language.
‘They only understand harsh measures’ said a source from Kigali before adding ‘When they slapped Rwandan trucks with high transit fees and we answered like with like by raising fees for Tanzanian transporters, they quickly rescinded their little scheme to extort us.
They behaved very uncivilized when they expelled thousands of people, many of them in fact Tanzanians, to Rwanda last year and stole a lot of these people’s property. Let 2014 be the year when they declare where they stand and either pull alongside the majority in the East African Community or else leave. The EAC is no place where those unwilling are holding everyone else back, it is no longer a place where the slowest and most reluctant can dictate the speed of things and it is no longer a place where anyone who wants out is kept by force’.
Meanwhile has a source from Arusha also commented on the rejection of the common Visa project by arguing: ‘Tanzania on her own is getting 50 dollar for each Visa they issue. Why now should they settle to get a much smaller part by sharing the 100 dollars with three other countries.
If those are happy to get only 30 for an entry instead of 50, that is ok for them but our tourist numbers have gone up and we expect more this year, so why let go of such important revenue. We Tanzanians pay through the nose when we need a Visa for Schengen [The European Union’s common Visa scheme] or the UK or the US so 50 dollars for them is even cheap. Admittedly we also have internal issues because Zanzibar may also start to claim get a share from a common Visa but in principle the main issue is the loss of revenue. I don’t think our officials really meant to highlight that there is a security risk when the first entry Visa is issued in Kigali or Entebbe for instance, that may have been a bit of a lapse’.
This latest spat is seen in some quarters as a continuation of the confrontational if not outright divisive developments of last year, when the formation of the Coalition of the Willing by Kenya, Uganda and Rwanda ruffled Tanzania’s feathers after the three signed wide ranging cooperation agreements for a common customs clearance pact, to be undertaken at the port of Mombasa, agreed on the Common Tourist Visa and the use of ID cards for citizens to cross borders and launched a new standard gauge railway system which will connect Mombasa with Uganda and Rwanda, leaving out Tanzania – by choice – and Burundi – reportedly as a result of intense diplomatic and economic pressurebrought to bear by Tanzania on them.
A Ugandan regular source, who participated in the some of the meetings to introduce the common Visa for Uganda, Kenya and Rwanda, added his own voice when saying: ‘It is not correct to say that the three are closing out Tanzania and Burundi. In fact the door is open for them to come on board. In all the meetings it was made clear that the two are part and parcel of the EAC and therefore no one should antagonize the two partners. They might not be ready to join now but can join when they are ready’. However that plays out in 2014, as with many other cases time will tell which way the EAC is heading and how successful the CoW will be in actually implementing their fast tracked projects, as political declarations – from experience – are never quite the same as what is happening on the ground.