President Jakaya Kikwete yesterday implored fellow African leaders to learn from Tanzania, the only country in Africa to have successfully maintained a Union for half a century.
Addressing the nation during the 50th anniversary of the Union at Uhuru Stadium, Mr Kikwete told African leaders that the Tanzanian experience was evidence that it was possible for East African countries and the rest of the continent to unite.
Tanzania, he added, had proved that the dreams of earlier presidents to unite the entire continent were possible.
He made the short remarks when introducing foreign leaders who attended the fete to mark the Union between Tanganyika and Zanzibar some 50 years ago. “We could not achieve political federation during the reign of Jomo Kenyatta and Mwalimu Julius Nyerere but I am very confident that this time round Uhuru Kenyatta and I and other leaders in the region will achieve that dream,” he added.
Political federation would generally go through several stages including a customs union, common market protocol and monetary union. The East African Community (EAC), which was “re-established” in 1999, has so far managed to seal a common market treaty. Monetary union was originally planned by 2009 but has not come to pass. Political federation was expected by 2010. Four years after the scheduled deadline, the five countries are still struggling to put the monetary union in place.
But President Kikwete remains optimistic, now more than ever before, that the time for a federation has come.
“If we have succeeded in keeping the union of our two countries intact for 50 years, it is testimony that political federation is achievable,” Mr Kikwete said amid cheers.
The celebrations, marked with pomp and style, were attended by seven heads of states of African countries, former presidents, vice presidents, prime ministers and diplomats.
According to Mr Kikwete, the union has steered remarkable achievements in the economy, defence and security along with social and political gains.
The head of state further took time to clear doubts that Tanzania was locked in a diplomatic row with Rwanda when introducing Rwandan Prime Minister Pierre Damien Habumuremyi, who represented President Paul Kagame at the celebrations.
All other heads of states from East African countries were present.
On a light note, Mr Kikwete said Mr Habumuremyi’s presence was evidence that Tanzania had no problems whatsoever with Rwanda. He received a round of applause from the crowd for those remarks.