South Sudan is set to become the sixth member of the East African Community (EAC) after the council of ministers shifted from its earlier position that the country be granted an observer status.
The oil rich country’s admission is expected to be approved at the five EAC presidents’ summit that is ongoing in Arusha, Tanzania.
A statement on Uganda’s President Yoweri Museveni’s Twitter account @KagutaMuseveni read: “President Magufuli informed me that South Sudan will be admitted to the EAC as 6th member during this summit.”
The message was retweeted on the Tanzanian President’s twitter account.
A statement from Kenya’s Presidential Strategic Communications Unit (PSCU) also appeared to anticipate the admission.
“Formal admission of South Sudan into the EAC community would be a sweet end to a long wait for Juba and a potentially expanded market for traders in the region,” read a PSCU statement.
The decision to fast-track the admission was reached last week through consultations after the ministers had initially decided that the country becomes an observer until it meets the bloc's membership criteria, mostly on governance.
South Sudan qualifies to join the community due to its geographical proximity and has potential to link the east African region to north and central Africa.
It has a market-driven economy, compatibilities in social and economic policies and has the potential to contribute to the strengthening of integration as required by the EAC treaty.
The country also recently established a mechanism for ratification and accession to international treaties — having already acceded to the UN and AU Charters, and has been admitted to several regional and international organisations such as Igad, the Nile Basin Initiative and Unesco.
According to Article 3 of the EAC Treaty, for a country to be admitted into the community, it has to adhere to universally acceptable principles of good governance, democracy, the rule of law, observance of human rights and social justice.
Although an earlier verification report had indicated that South Sudan had legal and institutional frameworks that would enable it to meet membership requirements, these institutions were still in their infancy or not operational, prompting the Heads of State to ask for more verification.
Sources indicate that the admission of South Sudan is most likely to have been influenced by Kenya, Rwanda and Uganda who stand to fully benefit from Juba most as a member of the Northern Corridor Infrastructure Projects.
South Sudan applied to join the EAC soon after it gained independence in July 2011.