President John Magufuli is today leading East African Community (EAC) Heads of State at an extraordinary meeting to be held at the State House in Dar es Salaam.
The meeting will mainly concentrate on Tanzania’s reluctance in signing the Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA) with the European Union (EU).
Tanzania has exclusively maintained that it will not append its signature on the agreement ‘’until the country’s demands that focus on the best interests of the people are met.’’
Addressing a news conference in Dar es Salaam yesterday, the Minister for Foreign Affairs and East African Cooperation, Dr Augustine Mahiga, said Tanzania would not sign the EPA agreement until crucial amendments are included in the agreement.
Among other issues that are delaying the signing of the agreement, Dr Mahiga said Tanzania wants to ensure that the country is currently focusing on the industrial economy as well as sorting out the effects that the country faces after the exit of Britain from the EU.
According to him, the EU was pushing for the EAC member states to sign that agreement that was drafted 14 years ago, whereas Kenya and Rwanda have already sealed their signatures on the Agreement. Uganda has expressed its intention to sign that agreement but it is waiting for today’s deliberations.
The agreement was expected to be signed by EAC member states as a block in July, this year, but it was pushed until October 1, after requests from the member countries. However, Dr Mahiga said the signing of EPA by Kenya and Rwanda meant nothing as it was supposed to be signed jointly as a block.
“This agreement is very strong and prior to signing we need to consider the EAC treaty and by signing differently we are likely to kill the EAC customs union,’’ he insisted.
The EAC Council of Ministers met in Arusha on Monday for more than 18 hours deliberating on the agreement, but they failed to agree on the joint signing. Therefore, all eyes and ears will be directed at State House today as Dr Magufuli leads the EAC top leaders to deliberate on the matter.
Apart from that, the EAC extraordinary meeting will also receive a report from the facilitator of the mediation on the Burundi crisis, former president Benjamin Mkapa. Mr Mkapa was in March named by the EAC Chairperson as the mediator for talks to end the long crisis in neighbouring Burundi.
He is today expected to present his report on the EAC heads of state meeting. Uganda’s Yoweri Museveni is the mediator of the crisis. The meeting will also receive a report on the steps taken to accomplish the official membership of South Sudan as member of the regional bloc.
According to Dr Mahiga, President Museven and Paul Kagame had confirmed their attendance. Mr Museveni was expected in the country yesterday while Mr Kagame is expected to arrive today morning.
Kenya’s Uhuru Kenyatta, Pierre Nkurunziza of Burundi and Salvar Kiir of South Sudan will send their representatives.