Africa and the Commonwealth were shocked by the collapse of the East African Community in 1977, followed by the slamming shut by President Nyerere of the Tanzania-Kenya border.
It seemed to be the end of one of the world's most promising experiments in regional cooperation, from which all three partners, Tanzania, Uganda, and Kenya , benefited economically, through its common market.
The Tanzania-Kenya border is still kept closed by President Nyerere: but strong feelers are being put out by Tanzanian Prime Minister Edward Sokoine to bring back, not the East African Community as such, but at least a program of economic cooperation between all three countries.
The East African Community was one of the heritages left by the British colonial authorities to the three newly independent countries, Tanzania, Uganda, and Kenya, in the early 1960s, but the history of cooperation in the area goes back to the turn of the century.
Kenya has welcomed Mr. Sokoine's initiative, and businessmen are optimistic about the opening up again of this regional market of 50 million people.
Now, the Tanzania tourist authorities have made an approach to their counterparts in Kenya to bring back the former arrangements whereby international parties of tourists were able to take in the splendors of Tanzania's Serengeti game park and Mt. Kilimanjaro, as well as Kenya's game parks and coastal attractions in one circuit. Tanzania's tourist attractions have suffered from neglect under socialist rule, while Kenya's are busy and prosperous, bringing in some $122 million a year in foreign exchange. Some tour people even envisage taking in Uganda again, where the famous game parks - destroyed by Idi Amin - are being rehabilitated.
Businessmen in the whole East African area have welcomed Tanzania's initiative. The collapse of the community led to a disastrous loss of trade all around, and a revival would be of immense help to the area which has been suffering badly from the world recession.
The collapse of the East African Community was caused by political and economic quarrels and ideological differences, with Tanzania's socialism at daggers drawn with Kenya's capitalism. Personality clashes between the leaders were also a big factor in the breakup. Nyerere vowed never to sit at the same table with the Uganda ''butcher,'' Idi Amin.