Southern Africa: Burundi Says It Is Ready for SADC Membership

Photo: Daily News
SADC flags.

Burundi is pushing for membership of the 16-member South African Development Community and has invited a team from the bloc to evaluate its readiness and report to the Summit.

Burundian Foreign Affairs Minister Ezechiel Nibigira last week visited the chair of the SADC Summit, Namibian President Hage Geingob, and said the country is ready to receive the team in May.

In 2017, Burundi and Comoros applied for membership in SADC, but after scrutiny, Burundi's application was put on hold, as Comoros became the 16th member of the regional bloc.

Mr Nibigira said that the country has regained stability since 2015, when it was hit by a political crisis that resulted to the killing of almost 1,000 people and left hundreds of thousands displaced.

The application in 2017 was assessed first by the Inter-state Politics and Diplomacy Committee of SADC's organ on politics, defence and security co-operation.

The Council of Ministers meeting in February 2017 ruled out immediate admission of the country, arguing that Burundi was politically unstable.

According to Article 8(2) of the Treaty establishing SADC, the admission of any state is only effected by a unanimous decision of the Summit.

New criteria

In 2003, after a Summit in Dar es Salaam, member states approved new criteria for admission of new member states, which included the observance of the principles of democracy, human rights, good governance and the rule of law, in accordance with the African Charter of Human and People's Rights.

If admitted, Burundi will be the second East African Community member state to join SADC after Tanzania.

However, critics say Burundi's application to the SADC is a way out, as the country has been an uncomfortable member of the EAC, where it has had rocky relations with neighbour Rwanda, and to some extent Uganda.

Burundi has not been contributing to the EAC budget, with reports showing that it owes the bloc over $10 million.

The evaluation team was to visit Bujumbura last year but SADC officials say Burundi asked for a postponement, as it was organising the referendum that saw the 2005 Constitution amended.

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