Tanzania has asked Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni to mediate in its spat with Rwanda.
Prime Minister Mizengo Pinda made the revelation in Dodoma yesterday when responding to a question by the Leader of the Official Opposition in Parliament, Mr Freeman Mbowe.
Mr Mbowe, who is also the Hai MP, wanted to know what was being done to normalise relations between the two East African Community (EAC) member states.
He said Rwanda had apparently convinced other EAC member states to sideline Tanzania.
Mr Mbowe asked the government to clearly state its position and measures being taken to address the situation.
Mr Pinda told Parliament that President Kikwete had sought President Museveni’s mediation to prevent relations from deteriorating further. “It is our hope that wisdom will prevail and this issue will be solved amicably…if these efforts will not bear fruit, we shall consider another course of action, but we are committed to resolving this peacefully,” he said.
But Mr Pinda accused Rwanda of overreacting, saying Tanzania had no reason to differ with its neighbour. He added, however, that Tanzania does not believe that it is being sidelined from EAC matters as a result of its strained relations with Rwanda.
There was no official EAC engagements from which Tanzania had been sidelined, the PM said.
Mr Pinda reiterated that President Kikwete made it clear in his latest end-of-the-month speech that Tanzania had no intention of entering into conflict with Rwanda.
“And let me emphasise that as far as Tanzania is concerned, we have no problem with Rwanda. But listening to what Rwandan leaders are saying, it is obvious that they are still not happy with President Kikwete’s suggestion that they should talk to rebels as a way of bringing lasting peace to Rwanda and the Great Lakes Region.
“The way Rwanda reacted to the suggestion is not proper. Rwanda could have turned down the advice and no one would have had a problem with that,” Mr Pinda said.
Diplomatic relations between the two countries began to sour in May when President Kikwete urged Rwanda to engage FDRL rebels in talks. He made the suggestion during a meeting of Great Lakes Region countries, which met on the sidelines of the Africa Union Summit in Addis Ababa in May.
“Politics is lobbying…our partners are doing things which were supposed to involve all EAC states like the use of our ports, but they have not been inviting Tanzania” Freeman Mbowe, Leader of the Official Opposition
But Mr Kagame rejected the advice, saying there was no way his government was going to sit with groups that were responsible for the 1994 genocide in which more than 800,000 people, mainly Tutsis, were killed.
Mr Pinda said there was no need for Rwanda to react in such a manner if it felt the suggestion was not in its best interests.
In his supplementary question, Mr Mbowe said it seemed that Rwanda had lobbied Uganda and Kenya, which were siding with it at Tanzania’s expense.
“Politics is lobbying…our partners are doing things which were supposed to involve all EAC states like the use of our ports, but they have not been inviting Tanzania to such events,” he said.
He said a push at the East African Legislative Assembly (Eala) in Arusha to have Eala sittings rotate among the five member states showed that the rest of the EAC member states had ganged up against Tanzania.
He urged the government to form a team which would look into the issue and determine the way forward.
But Mr Pinda said there was no need to take such action.
The revelation that Tanzania had asked for President Museveni’s intervention came a few days after EAC Secretary-General Richard Sezibera said the two countries were engaged in behind-the-scenes efforts to normalise relations.