17 December 2012

East Africa: Govt to Back South Sudan Application

Kigali — Rwanda's Minister in charge of East African Affairs Monique Mukaruliza has said South Sudan's admission into the community will have wide reaching benefits for the region.

South Sudan that recently gained independence from the Arab North applied to join the EAC and its application is pending consideration.

A team sent to S. Sudan by the East African Community (EAC) in July this year, to verify its readiness for membership submitted its report to the council of ministers during a meeting in Burundi.

During the Burundi meeting, four partner states found the team's findings comprehensive enough to make deliberations on the admissibility of Africa's youngest nation into the community except Tanzania which sought more time to review the report.

But last week Tanzania also indicated it will welcome S. Sudan to the community.

"South Sudan will definitely be a worthy addition to the community as it will widen the market and that comes with opportunities for us all," said Minister Mukaruliza during a press briefing of the EAC activities recently.

According to Mukaruliza, Rwanda will not only benefit from S. Sudan's entry but that there's a lot her country can teach S. Sudan especially developing national institutions and sharing experience of how the country can recover from its long years of war before gaining independence earlier this year.

Sudan had earlier applied as a united country before granting the south their independence but the bid was rejected by the partners on grounds that it failed to meet key requirements for entry.

Among those, applicants must adhere to universally acceptable principles of good governance, democracy, the rule of law, observance of human rights and social justice; potential contribution to the strengthening of integration within the East African region as well as geographical proximity to and inter-dependence between it (the applicant) and the EAC Partner States.

Currently, there are two bids to consider that of S. Sudan and Somalia which is on the brink of victory over the Al-Shabaab Militias. Experts reckon that the admission of the two applicants could be the trick in pacifying the great lakes region that is never short of conflicts.

Somalia and S. Sudan share borders with Kenya and Uganda (with S. Sudan). South Sudan is also sitting on a huge oil wealth with experts suggesting that around 80% of the untapped oil deposits in Sudan are in the south.

With Uganda's own oil wells expected to start flowing in two years' time, that would make two member states producing oil, a very huge value addition to the region.

And if Somalia's own application was to be granted, that addition would rise further with talk of Somalia's potential for oil and gas wealth onshore and offshore, estimated to be as high as 110 billion barrels of oil in the two northern breakaway provinces of Puntland and Somaliland.

The Canadian company, Africa Oil which began drilling two wells in Puntland claims their two wells have the potential of around 4 billion oil barrels.

With an unfriendly neighbor in the North, South Sudan will benefit from Kenya's Sea port as independence meant losing connection with the sea. Somalia's entry will also bring a third sea port owning country in the EAC a sure way of spurring more trade in the region.

The underlying benefits of regional integration is peace and more trade and if admission into the EAC can guarantee peace for S. Sudan and Somalia then Trade in the region stand to benefit massively.

The question remains whether the same will be done for DR Congo a mineral rich neighbor where the government there has failed to address internal conflicts. It shares borders with Rwanda, Tanzania and Uganda.

But while the community gets larger, experts worry that it might become one large uncontrollable piece that might fail to benefit the citizens.

In its smaller version, many protocols have been signed but not implemented and critics have questioned the level of commitment by political heads of the partner states.

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