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Denzel Musumba

Denzel Musumba


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As the East African common market was operationalised Thursday, a section of businessmen from Kenya are accusing other countries for holding back. Elizabeth Kinyanjui, a Kenyan businesswoman at the Namanga border accuses Tanzanian immigration authorities of holding up people and goods. She says this frustrates the goals of the protocol, which embraces Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania, Rwanda and Burundi. "Uganda, Rwanda and Burundi have no problem with Kenyans, but in Tanzania, they sort of discriminate," Kinyanjui says. Regional leaders revived the East African Community (EAC) in the 1990s after it collapsed in 1977. On the Tanzanian side of Namanga, a busy border town which lies under a range of hills three hours’ drive from Nairobi, there are echoes of the disagreements of the 1970s among the people. "It seems Tanzania is going to be the dumping ground because if Tanzania does not have enough industries, then countries like Kenya will bring their industries and all sorts of goods here," said trader Said Ali, standing outside a small shop full of goods made in Kenya. Busia and Malaba are the other two busy border crossings in the region. Whereas Kenya exports plenty of finished goods like batteries, food and detergents through Namanga, Tanzania exports timber and other farm produce into Kenya. Chris Abongo, a lecturer at the Institute of Diplomacy at the University of Nairobi, said sentiments like those expressed by Ali are caused by inaccurate information about the process of integration. "It doesn’t mean that the borders will collapse, like switching off a light bulb," he said. Abongo said the benefits of regional integration outweigh people’s fears about it. Vimal Shah, Chairman Kenya Association Manufacturers, who invested $10 million in 2008 to expand his production capacity ahead of the market growth says economic progress across the region is likely to trump any political upheaval.