Khartoum’s application to the EAC ahead of South Sudan — its rival — has the only backing of Rwanda, but faces serious opposition from Tanzania and Uganda.
The EAC economic powerhouse of Kenya and the current chair, Burundi were reserved during the recent EAC Council of Ministers meeting in Arusha. Tanzania and Uganda have emphatically rejected the application saying the request should be snubbed.
“Both states see the current Sudan authorities as on the margin of most values that the EAC partnership stands for,” a source at the meeting said. Dar and Kampala are reported to have cited human-rights abuses, religious intolerance, blatant racism and warmongering, besides the geographical proximity clause whereby Khartoum can’t join without South Sudan being on board.
Kigali cited investment and business opportunities, along with vital resources such as oil that would be brought into the EAC trading bloc if Sudan were admitted.
Rwanda, Kenya and Burundi on their side called for a comprehensive assessment of the Khartoum application to make it easier for the Summit to reach an informed decision on the matter.
“Uganda and Tanzania were of the view that there was no need for the Secretariat to carry out an assessment on the Sudan application, pointing out that Khartoum does not meet the criteria for admission to join EAC,” the source noted.
The EAC Council of Ministers referred the matter to the EAC Heads of State Summit slated for November.
Elifuraha Laltaika, a lecturer on constitutional law at Makumira University College in Arusha, told The EastAfrican that as much as EAC expansion is a positive move, Khartoum’s admission should not be rushed.
“Given the country’s human-rights record, it deserves provisional admission. Any fast-tracked admission of Khartoum will mean that the EAC target is to have potential members that will contribute funds to run the regional body, regardless of their human-rights record,” said Mr Laltaika.
Edwin Mtei, the former secretary general of the oldEAC, which collapsed in 1977, said Khartoum should be accepted on condition that it embraces democracy within the shortest period possible and embraces transparency in its undertakings.
“Forget about Khartoum, let’s embrace all countries like South Sudan, Ethiopia and troubled Somalia to enlarge the intra-EAC market,” Mr Mtei explained.
Considering that the Republic of Sudan has about 35 million people, its entry would expand the population of the bloc to 160 million inhabitants, making the regional market even more captivating than now.
Observers consider that the oil factor would make a difference to the EAC, though much of Sudanese oil still comes from the South which is now independent.
Sudan is now sub-Saharan Africa’s third-largest oil producer, after Nigeria and Angola.
The South produces about 75 per cent of Sudan’s crude oil, but receives about 50 per cent of the revenue, split with Khartoum, on account of the transportation infrastructure and port facilities in the North.
A planned pipeline through Kenya to the coast could radically alter this situation.