PRESIDENT Jakaya Kikwete has reiterated that the will of the people will be the central determining factor in the formation of the East African political federation.
Speaking to the US Council on Foreign Relations here on Monday, Mr Kikwete said it was for this reason that there was an ongoing process for East Africans to discuss the matter openly and express their opinion. He was briefing the council on the East African integration process
Mr Kikwete said that unlike earlier attempts at integration, which collapsed in 1977, the present regional co-operation and integration trend was a comprehensive, market-led and people-centred.
Several factors then led to the collapse of the process including putative ideological divide among the community member states during the Cold War era, the rise of a military dictatorship and perceptions of inadequate sharing of benefits of integration.
"The EAC regional integration efforts are girded by a democratic renaissance, serious efforts to fight poverty and good governance. Its model is both strategic and systematic, covering a broad range of areas in social, economic and political spheres," the president told the council.
Mr Kikwete said the new community, whose vision is to be realised in an incremental progression through the stages of a Customs Union, a common market, a monetary union and ultimately a political federation, emphasises participation of the people.
He said a big step has been made in the integration process with two development strategies having been implemented while the third one (2006-2010), whose major focus would be the consolidation of the Customs Union, establishment of the common market and laying the groundwork for the federation, was being prepared.
The East African Legislative Assembly has been established to safeguard and reflect the wishes and aspirations of people; and to oversee good governance of the Community, the president informed the council.
He said an East African Court of Justice has been established to ensure adherence to law in the Community's activities.
Mr Kikwete told his audience that negotiations were also under way on the protocol for the establishment of the common market but maintained that both issues (common market and political federation) were weighty and sensitive as they affected sovereignty and other related primordial rights.
Mr Kikwete also said that the challenge of poverty was also being addressed and that the entire member states had elaborative poverty reduction strategies in place.
"It is this combination of democratic politics, concerted poverty reduction policies and commitment to a common pursuit of peace and stability in the region that gives the hope that our integration efforts are bound to succeed," he said.
"It is in this context that I wish to appeal to members of the council to rally support for the efforts and role of the East African Community in promoting the development of our region and its people," he added.