Will Burundi get nod to join SADC?

Tuesday August 1 2017

Burundi's President Pierre Nkurunziza. PHOTO | REUTERS

Burundi's President Pierre Nkurunziza. PHOTO | REUTERS 

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Burundi is having a hard time joining the Southern African Development Community (SADC), after the bloc’s Ministerial Committee of the Organ (MCO) for Politics, Defence and Security, who met in Dar es Salaam recently, said it has failed to meet their requirements.

Tanzania’s Foreign Minister Augustine Mahiga told The EastAfrican that the MCO established that Bujumbura has not met the admission criteria and made recommendations.

“There are issues that the government of Burundi has to work on,” said Dr Mahiga, without giving details.  

However, SADC executive secretary Dr Stergomena Tax said that the Summit of Heads of State will have the final word on the matter.

“The MCO can only make recommendations to the Summit through the Council,” she said, but declined to give details of the report that the MCO has prepared for the Council Council of Ministers.

This year, the Council met in March in Ezulwini, Swaziland, while the Summit is scheduled for later in August in Pretoria, South Africa. Analysts say it is unlikely that the Summit will make the final decision on Burundi.


Early this year, Burundi, also a member of the East African Community, applied alongside the Comoros to join the 15-member SADC. Both countries underwent scrutiny by the bloc’s Inter-State Politics and Diplomacy Committee and, recently, the MCO.

During its two-day meeting, the MCO which is made up of ministers of defence, foreign affairs, public and state security, is said to have made positive recommendations on the application of the Comoros.

Burundi was not represented at the meeting. Foreign Minister Alain Nyamitwe declined to comment, saying that the government is yet to receive any update on the matter.

In 2003, the SADC Summit held in Dar es Salaam approved new criteria for the admission of new members.

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Admission criteria

One criterion, which analysts see as potentially hampering Burundi’s bid to join SADC, says the applicant country must show “commonality of political, economic, social and cultural systems with the systems of the SADC region, as well as the observance of the principles of democracy, human rights, good governance and the rule of law in accordance with the African Charter of Human and People’s Rights”.

Political analyst Prof Mwesiga Baregu said SADC probably wants to be assured of future peace and stability in Burundi before taking it aboard.

“You remember political turmoil in Burundi stemmed from a constitutional dispute over whether it was right for the then incumbent president to contest for election for a third term.  So far, there is no clear guarantee that the same will not happen in the future” said Prof Baregu.

If admitted to SADC, Burundi will join Tanzania as EAC members with dual regional membership.