Dar es Salaam. East Africa Community (EAC) member countries are continuing with the processes and initiatives to lay the last stage of a political federation.
The political federation is the last and ultimate goal of the EAC. It is provided under Article 5 (2) of the treaty and the EAC development strategy for 2006 to 2010.
Many times, Tanzania has been accused of slowing down the EAC integration. The country is being accused of being reluctant to sign various agreements and taking long to decide.
At a time when EAC members are discussing road map towards forming political federation, some leaders in the region are busy thinking of how to change their country’s constitution so that they can stay longer in power.
However, no EAC leader has so far declared publicly that he is planning to extend presidential term, but political analysts believe that some of them are discreetly preparing the ground for major amendments to their countries’ constitutions.
In March, 2014 the ruling party in Burundi, National Council for the Defence of Democracy—Forces for the Defence of Democracy (CNDD-FDD) tabled schedule of amendment in parliament. Among suggested amendments was the removal of presidential term limits so that President Pierre Nkurunzinza could run for the third term in 2015.
However, the package of amendments sent to parliament was narrowly defeated by one vote.
In 2005, Uganda parliament, which is dominated by members from the ruling party National Resistance Movement (NRM) managed to remove president term limits from the constitution. President Yoweri Museven is expected to run for fifth term in the 2016 general election.
Last week, media reported that President Paul Kagame’s allies had launched a campaign to seek a third term in office by suggesting a constitutional change to allow him to run for the presidency in the 2017 general election.
President Kagame, whose Rwandan Patriotic Front (RPF), helped to end the 1994 genocide was elected in 2003 and 2010 and is therefore ineligible to stand again in 2017.
However, in his speech to African diplomats in China, President Jakaya Kikwete conveyed a strong message to the World that he was eagerly waiting for his last day in office. He said 10 years was enough for him and that it was right time for another person to lead the country.
According to President Kikwete, it was a tradition for Tanzanian leaders to respect the constitution as a way of adhering to principles of democracy and good governance.
President Kikwete’s statement is a big lesson for other African leaders who seem to be addicted to power.
Moreover, as the debate on the EAC political federation continues, Tanzania can use that exclucive opportunity to influence other members to adhere to the rule of law and strengthen democracy in their countries.
Political analysts who spoke to Political Platform said Tanzania should use its political, geographical and economic advantages to influence other EAC countries to adhere to the rule of law as they continue to discuss models of EAC political federation.
The University of Dodoma lecturer, Mr Paul Loisulie said other countries should learn from Tanzania leadership system. He said there should be no more discussions on political federation without resolving issues related to the respect of constitution and rule of law.
“Tanzania should state categorically that it cannot enter the federation with countries whose leaders do not respect constitution, this will help other members to adhere to the rule of law and learn to respect their constitution,” he said.
The Tanzania Teachers Union (TTU) assistant secretary general, Mr Ezekiel Oluoch said Tanzania was a powerful country in EAC, which is a determining factor in decision making. According to Mr Oluoch, Tanzania has a big role to play and become a role model for other countries.
“Since Tanzania is a big country, it is obvious that it can set policies on how to cooperate and work with other countries,” he said.
He said Tanzania can form policies that encourage rule of law, respect of constitution and suppress leaders who go against good governance.
“Through political federation discussions, Tanzania has the power to influence other EAC members to adopt presidential term limits in constitutions, let Tanzania speak openly that it will not cooperate with leaders who do not respect constitution,” said Mr Oluochi.
The Trade Union Congress of Tanzania (TUCTA) Secretary General, Mr Nicholas Mgaya said Tanzania should use political federation to set policies that will influence other EAC members to respect constitution.“We have witnessed changes in Uganda’s constitution in 2005. As we speak Burundi and Rwanda are also debating the same issues, Tanzania should not allow this thing to happen, there must be consensus before going for political federation,” he said.
According to Mr Mgaya, African leaders should learn a lesson from President Kikwete’s speech and Tanzania leadership system, which respects rule of law and constitution.
“Our fellows who want to stay in power for so long must learn a lesson from Tanzania, they should also understand that if you don’t leave power, power will leave you,” he said.