Kenya's Kenyatta travels to Tanzania for EAC summit

By Yassin Juma, Monday, March 24, 2014

The EAC regional bloc includes Kenya, Uganda, Rwanda, Burundi and Tanzania

The EAC regional bloc includes Kenya, Uganda, Rwanda, Burundi and Tanzania

NAIROBI – Kenya's President Uhuru Kenyatta on Monday travelled to Tanzania to chair a Tuesday summit meeting of the five-member East Africa Community (EAC) in the northern city of Arusha.

"The president will also take the opportunity to inform citizens of East Africa of the ongoing efforts to address challenges and the direction [in which] the community is heading," the EAC secretariat said in a statement mailed to Anadolu Agency.

It added that Kenyatta's address would focus on the progress of integration, priority areas and the role of the EAC Parliament in achieving goals set by the five member states.

Kenyatta is the current chairperson of the regional bloc, which includes Kenya, Uganda, Rwanda, Burundi and Tanzania.

He took over the EAC leadership last November from his Ugandan counterpart, Yoweri Museveni.

The EAC was originally founded in 1967, collapsing in 1997 before being revived in 2000.

Arusha hosts the current headquarters of the EAC.

-Integration-

President Kenyatta has time and again reiterated his commitment to integrating the East African countries, saying such integration was vital to the region's economic growth.

"The fact that Kenyatta chose to travel by road to Arusha shows his commitment to integration," regional analyst Francis Matete told AA.

"It is a clear sign that he wants to encourage the movement of East Africans across borders," he added.

Among the regional grouping's achievements to date has been the relaxing of work permit restrictions, allowing freer cross-border movement and minimizing cross-border tariffs.

Plans are currently underway to create a common market with a single currency and a unified passport system.

In February, the leaders of Uganda, Kenya and Rwanda officially launched a Single Tourist Visa scheme.

Tourists are now required to pay $100 for a 90-day multiple-entry visa that allows them to enter all three countries instead of paying $150 to enter each country in turn.

Burundi, another EAC member, has not yet stated its position on the Single Tourist Visa arrangement.

Tanzania, for its part, has long argued that a single visa system would compromise its security by surrendering its control over who enters the country.

It threatened to withdraw from the regional grouping last year.

Tanzania's major worry regarding integration relates to the freedom of movement and land issues.

Matete said South Sudan's bid to join the EAC was also likely to come up in the address.

"The recent crisis in South Sudan has been seen as a major setback in [the country's] quest to join the community," he added. "A final decision is yet to be taken by the five countries."

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