Burundi crisis is not the top priority of East African presidents as they meet in Arusha with the main aim of reviewing the admission of South Sudan and Somalia to the East African Community (EAC) trading bloc.
Burundi sank into a crisis last year after President Pierre Nkurunziza ran for a third term of office, which he secured in a disputed vote.
Kenya’s Uhuru Kenyatta, Tanzania’s John Magufuli, Yoweri Museveni of Uganda and Rwanda’s Paul Kagame will instead focus on renewed efforts to admit South Sudan and Somalia, the region’s other troubled spots, into the EAC.
“Top on the agenda is the consideration of reports...on the admission of South Sudan...and the verification exercise for the admission of Somalia,” the EAC secretariat said in a statement Tuesday.
The protests that erupted in Burundi after President Nkurunziza announced his bid for third term in April later compounded to a political crisis after his re-lection in July.
Rwanda and Tanzania host most of the Burundians refugees displaced since the chaos started. While the African Union and the United Nations have taken strong stand on the crisis, the East African leaders have chosen cautious steps.
Among the conditions for EAC membership is political stability.
On Tuesday, the EAC Secretariat steered clear of the Burundi question as it announced the blocs ordinary Heads of state Summit to be held in Arusha on February 29.
The summit, which is normally held in November, was postponed last year to allow Tanzania to handle its political transition.
South Sudan sought EAC membership in 2011 with Somalia making its bid a year later. The bloc, however, rejected both application saying the two states torn by decades of war needed more time to set up proper market and governance institutions.
The region’s top decision making organ will, however, discuss ways of financing its activities amid concerns that the sustainability of current overreliance on donor funds.
At least 60 per cent of the bloc’s economic integration bill is currently footed by donors, mostly European countries.
Member states which account for 30 per cent of the annual budget frequently default in disbursing funds to the community.
The region which is currently implementing its common market protocol has since negotiated a monetary union. The presidents appear to have brushed off the current political instability and financing hiccup to forge ahead with the remaining stages of integration.
“The meeting will also consider Council reports on: the Model, Structure and Action Plan of the EAC Political Federation,” the EAC secretariat said.
Other agreements to be finalised by the presidents include a framework for harmonised roaming charges, uniform policy for motor vehicle assembly in the region and a common policy on textile and leather Industries.
The five leaders are expected to launch the East African e-passport) during their meeting.