REGIONAL AFFAIRS

Is Tanzania EAC integration weak link?

Uganda says Tanzania's truckers' fee is unfairly high, creates an uneven playing field, and goes against the efforts of promoting EAC integration

In Summary

•Uganda has filed a complaint with the EAC Council of Ministers, accusing Tanzania of breaching the Common Market Protocol.

• At the centre of the dispute is a Sh50.000 fee imposed by the Tanzanian government on Ugandan trucks traversing its territory, compared with Sh15,200 charged on Rwandan trucks.

EAC Presidents Yoweri Museveni (Uganda) and John Magufuli (Tanzania) listen to President Uhuru Kenyatta as he makes his key note speech during the Joint Heads of State Retreat on Infrastructure and Health Financing and Development at Munyonyo, Uganda, in February 2018
EAC Presidents Yoweri Museveni (Uganda) and John Magufuli (Tanzania) listen to President Uhuru Kenyatta as he makes his key note speech during the Joint Heads of State Retreat on Infrastructure and Health Financing and Development at Munyonyo, Uganda, in February 2018
Image: PSCU

Uganda has filed a complaint with the EAC Council of Ministers, accusing Tanzania of breaching the Common Market Protocol.

A report by The EastAfrican said Kampala protested against Dar es Salaam’s move to impose different road user charges to partner states in the EAC.

The report said Tanzania is charging truckers heading to the Dar es Salaam port, and Kampala is threatening to retaliate against the “unfair” charges.

Escalation of the dispute, TheEastAfrican said, could affect over $171 million worth of trade between the states, and “inflict more damage on the fragile regional integration process”.

But who is the aggressor?

At the centre of the dispute is a Sh50.000 fee imposed by the Tanzanian government on Ugandan trucks traversing its territory, compared with Sh15,200 charged on Rwandan trucks.

Uganda argues the fee is unfairly high and goes against the efforts of promoting EAC as a single investment destination.

“It does affect trade, because someone has to think twice to get goods through Tanzania because of these charges. They make trade with Tanzania very difficult, and this is not fair play because whatever the charges they must be uniform," Uganda's Minister of Works and Transport Katumba Wamala said.

But Tanzania says the fee is used to repair and maintain Tanzania's roads, which keep the landlocked neighbours connected to the Indian Ocean seaports.

Tanzania has also had trade and diplomatic standoffs with Kenya.

In May, for instance, it banned Kenyan truckers as the two states differed on the handling of Covid-19. The move was reacting to President Uhuru Kenyatta’s announcement of cessation of movement into and out of Kenya’s border with Tanzania and Somalia to curb coronavirus spread.

Trucks heading to other countries in the south such as Malawi, Zambia, DRC Congo through Tanzania were allowed entry. Somalia did not retaliate.

This was despite EAC leaders discussing the containment measures in a heads of state and government meeting on Covid-19, that President Pombe Magufuli skipped.  Country’s Foreign Affairs minister Prof Palamagamba Kabudi said Magufuli failed to attend because “it was a Northern Corridor meeting”.

Days later, Arusha’s regional commissioner Mrisho Mashaka Gambo accused Kenya of trying to ruin Tanzania’s tourism industry by claiming its drivers tested positive for Covid-19.

And when international flights resumed, the fight went to the airspace. Tanzania banned Kenya Airways, again retaliating against exclusion from the list of states allowed to resume flights into the country starting August 1. Three weeks later, it extended the ban to three more Kenyan airlines — Fly 540, Air Kenya Express and Safarilink Aviation.

It only lifted the ban on September 16, a day after Kenya included Tanzanians in the list of states whose nationals can fly in without being quarantined. Reciprocity is a principle in diplomacy that Tanzania seems to invoke often.

But there have been previous instances where it has been unfair to Kenya. In September 2016, Kenyan tour operators accused Tanzania of denying them access to Serengeti National Park.

In July 2017, the Kenya Association of Manufacturers accused it of retaining restrictions that existed before a truce was reached by respective Foreign Affairs ministers, making it hard for Kenyan products to access its market.

In November 2017, Kenya protested after Tanzania police burnt to death 6,400 one-day-old chicks from Kenya, on suspicion they could spread bird flu. This was shortly after Tanzania seized and auctioned 1,300 cattle belonging to Kenyan Maasais.