On Thursday East African Cooperation minister Samuel Sitta declared that land will remain a sovereign matter, and cautioned against any attempt to put it under the ambit of the regional body.
First of all, let us make it quite clear that some of our fellow Tanzanians, either purposely or unknowingly, have been trying to drag land issues into the East African Community, using it as a shield to delay the region’s economic integration.
Those who fear integration have always used land as an excuse for making outrageous claims, including that under EAC integration foreigners would grab land in Tanzania, leaving the locals with nothing.
The truth is what minister Sitta said on Thursday; that land, even with full-blown EAC integration, would remain a sovereign matter whose ownership would be governed by Tanzanian laws.
Although there might possibly be foreigners from partner states who could be targeting our land under the EAC, we still believe that the matter has been blown out of proportion by anti-integration elements who see the newly revived union as a threat to Tanzanians.
It is inconceivable that some foreigners could grab our land because of the EAC. Should that happen, the blame should squarely be put on our feeble laws and not somebody else. This is because, from the first day the treaty to establish EAC was signed, land has remained a sovereign matter – and so it will always be, no matter how intense the pressure from outsiders.
Those bent on applying all sorts of dirty tricks to drag the land issue into the EAC treaty, as the minister pointed out, are bound to miserably fail owing to the fact that our laws are strong and have been enacted with the primary aim of protecting Tanzanians against land grabbers.
Whether or not we are in the East African Community, land grabbers can only be stopped by having credible laws that bar foreigners from owning land at any cost. They can, of course, rent it, but they should never be landlords at any cost. This is what we should advocate.
Tanzania is the largest country in the region in terms of population and size, comprising about 52 percent of the total EAC area.
We surely do need the East African Community, but at what cost? Tanzanians are not willing now to sign away their sovereignty over land like Chief Mangungo of Msovero was hoodwinked into doing by the Germans in the 18th century.
That’s why we wish to reiterate our stand that land will continue to be a sovereign issue, and not a regional matter, under the EAC treaty.