South Sudan has sent the list of the nine members it has picked for the East African Legislative Assembly, in a process that will see the world’s youngest nation take its place as a full member of the East African Community.
The government confirmed Gabriel Garang Aher Arol, Gai Deng Nhial, Anne Itto Leonardo, Isac Aziz Justin Bazugba, Gabriel Alaak Garang and Thomes Dut Gatkek from the ruling Sudan People’s Liberation Movement (SPLM), as its EALA representatives.
The others are Adil Elais Sandrai and Gideon Gatpan Thoar from SPLM-in-Opposition, and Joseph Ukel Ubango from the United Sudan African Party.
Richard Owora Othieno, EAC spokesperson, said South Sudan is expected to take its place as a full member of the EAC at the beginning of July, when the new financial year starts.
South Sudan should have taken up its membership earlier, after submitting ratification instruments in September 2016, but this was not possible due to financial constraints. It is expected to raise $8.4 million in annual contribution.
Daniel Kidega, outgoing EALA Speaker said other EAC partner states will be expected to help out South Sudan with its financial obligation just as they did for Burundi in 2009.
“When Burundi had just joined, they didn’t have the capacity to contribute to the EAC fund. Other partner states shared Burundi’s obligation and the same should be done for South Sudan,” he said.
Upon full admission, South Sudan will become the sixth member of a bloc that started out as a club of three — Uganda, Kenya and Tanzania — before Rwanda and Burundi joined.
Mr Kidega said the nine South Sudanese legislators will take the oath at the fourth assembly in June after the third EALA session ends on June 4.
Burundi currently owes $8.4 million — its contribution to the EAC budget for the 2016/17 financial year — and has arrears of $771,037 from the previous financial year.
Uganda has paid $7.7 million and has a balance of $709,689, which is equal to 9.47 per cent. Kenya has paid 52.5 per cent and has a debt of $4 million. Rwanda has paid 48.1 per cent and Tanzania 30.5 per cent.
At the beginning of the financial year in June, the EAC had planned to reduce its donor dependence by asking members to contribute 46.9 per cent of the $101.4 million budgeted for, but only 28 per cent of this has been paid.
According to Mr Othieno, this shortfall has left the EAC unable to pay its employees. Things could become worse when South Sudan, which has a dysfunctional economy, becomes a member in July.