Jealousies smolder as failed East African Community tries to close books

A long, cold assessment of liabilities and assets is all that remains of the East African Community, which collapsed in bitterness and animosity six years ago.

The community - a regional economic grouping patterned to a degree on the European Economic Community and consisting of Kenya, Tanzania, and Uganda - lasted for 10 years. It shared railways, airways, harbors, posts, and telegraphs , a common market, and dozens of valuable scientific research institutions. It had its own parliament, and its capital was the little town of Arusha, Tanzania.

Feuding toward the end of the decade was so bitter as to result in closure of the Tanzania-Kenya border. It is still closed.

An acrimonious battle over splitting the community's assets, which total some there will have to be agreement by the three heads of state, Presidents Daniel arap Moi of Kenya, Julius Nyerere of Tanzania, and Milton Obote of Uganda.

A United Nations mediator, Swiss banker Victor Umbricht, and a team of 42 experts have been trying to tally up the group's assets and liabilities. The team spent two years traveling through the vast area of 40 million people: counting railway wagons; assessing the value of an airport, a railway headquarters, the big harbors at Mombasa and Dar es Salaam; looking for ships on Lake Victoria; assessing the value of post offices; and weighing claims.

The team had daunting problems. Among these are differing exchange rates, varying rates of inflation, and the fact that many of the assets were donated by the former colonial power in all three territories, Britain, which originally nudged the community to organize.

Kenya, industrially the most advanced, was always the ''spiritual'' head of the East African Community, but this aroused resentment in socialist Tanzania. Most of the assets were in Kenya - among them the East African Railway headquarters, the East African Airways base, the posts and telegraphs headquarters. The community's capital, Arusha, had only just been built.

The most valuable asset was East African Railways, which spanned all three countries. Dr. Umbricht's men assessed it at $576 million.

But there are also liabilities. One formula gives Kenya 63 percent of the liabilities; Tanzania, 37 percent; and Uganda, none.

Among the creditors are the World Bank, Canada, the United States, Britain, and Sweden. They are owed millions.

When the East African Community finally broke up in the mid '70s, all community services were separated among the nations, so now the countries run their own railways, airways, telecommunications, and harbors. The common market collapsed, and the valuable scientific research institutions were wound up.

Whatever the final formula, it is doubtful if any cash will change hands. All three countries are suffering from severe economic recession. Tanzania is virtually broke.

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