Tanzania has officially agreed to South Sudan’s bid to join the East African Community, clearing the way for the world’s newest state to become the regional bloc’s sixth member next year.
This reflects a dramatic shift for Tanzania, which earlier in the year caused the decision on South Sudan to be deferred after it requested more time for consultation on the matter.
Then, sources indicated that Tanzania was opposed to South Sudan’s membership because it would benefit Kenya and Uganda more.
Exports from Kenya and Uganda to South Sudan have more than doubled in the past 10 years and are currently valued at over $200 million and $180 million respectively.
In explaining Tanzania’s current position, Dr Stergomena Tax-Bamwenda, Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of East African Community Co-operation, told The EastAfrican his country recognised the political, economic and socio-cultural contributions South Sudan would make to the Community.
“Its geographical proximity has the potential to link the East African region to North Africa and Central Africa; it has a market-driven economy, compatibilities in social and economic policies and potential contribution to the strengthening of integration as required by the EAC Treaty,” said Dr Stergomena.
Among the issues Tanzania had sought to clarify before endorsing South Sudan’s membership were its acceptance of good governance, democracy, the rule of law and observance of human rights and social justice.
Tanzania has now taken into account the fact that South Sudan has established mechanisms for ratification and access to international treaties, acceded to the United Nations and African Union charters and has also has been admitted to several regional and international organisations, such as Igad, the Nile Basin Initiative and Unesco.
The EAC Heads of States at their last Summit directed the Council of Ministers to start serious negotiations with South Sudan for admission to the bloc, and approved the verification report presented by the Council.
The Heads of States indicated that more time was needed to investigate the country’s commitment to good governance, democracy, the rule of law, respect for human rights and social justice as per Article 3 of the EAC Treaty.
Although the verification report carried out by the EAC team early this year had indicated that South Sudan had put in place legal and institutional frameworks that would enable it to meet membership requirements as outlined in the EAC Treaty, these institutions were still in their infancy or not yet operational; the Heads of State indicated that more verification was required.
South Sudan has 85 per cent of Sudan’s oil output, estimated at about 520,000 barrels per day, which offers the EAC a unique opportunity to have South Sudan as a partner state in the region’s Common Market and Monetary Union.
The Heads of States also considered the application of the Federal Republic of Somalia to join the community and directed the Council to undertake an initial verification progress of the application.
Additional reporting Christabel Ligami