2 December 2012

Tanzania: EAC Defers South Sudan, Somali Admission

THE East African Community (EAC) Heads of State summit in Nairobi yesterday deferred a decision on South Sudan and Somalia's application to join the five-member economic bloc.

South Sudan applied for entry into the EAC only months after its independence, last year while Somalia submitted its application in February 2012. In April this year, regional leaders meeting in Bujumbura deferred their decision on the country's application to November.

A communiqué issued at the end of the summit directed the Council of Ministers, the decision making body of the bloc to conduct more negotiations with the newly independent country, while taking into consideration the findings in the verification committee's report.

The decision was reached after the regional leaders received the progress report on Juba's admissibility to the Community. The previous summit had asked the Council to verify whether the applicant was meeting the criteria as stipulated by the treaty.

The reasons for deferring the two countries admission were not clear. But at a past forum in Nairobi, Kenya's East African Community Minister Musa Sirma said sporadic cases of conflict between Juba and its northern neighbour could hurt the country's bid to join the EAC.

The EAC treaty sets out conditions for membership, including adherence to universally acceptable principles of good governance, democracy, rule of law, observance of human rights and social justice. It also stipulates that for a country to be allowed membership, it should be able to contribute towards the strengthening of integration within the region; geographical proximity between it and partner states and establishment and maintenance of a market driven economy.

On Somalia's application, the summit also directed the Council to engage the Federal Republic of Somalia and undertake a verification process of the application and report at the 15th summit of EAC Heads of State. While undertaking this process, the Council of Ministers will explore ways for the EAC to work constructively with the federal republic of Somalia on this matter.

Speaking at the meeting, the new chairman of the summit, Uganda's President Yoweri Kaguta Museveni emphasised the need to utilise all the available resources to spur the integration. "As we continue with our integration process, we need to always evaluate the factors available to us: the land area, the minerals, the water and the human resource. These are all important and must be treasured," Museveni said.

He noted that the human resource, however, is the greatest wealth of Africa - they are the consumers, the innovators, the workers, it is the greatest stimulus to production. "China and India have again proved this, if it needs any proof. They have become magnets of global growth precisely because of that vast human resource. This is one of the greatest factors I value about East Africa," he said.

The summit also approved the different protocols including EAC protocol on peace and security, protocol on information, communications and technology networks. In 2011, during the Heads of State summit in Bujumbura, Burundi, the summit rejected Khartoum's application on the grounds that the latter did not meet the Community's requirements as stipulated in the treaty.

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