South Sudan may have applied and joined the East African Community at the earliest opportunity possible, but the country is not comfortable with having its neighbours in a common market.
In negotiations to sign onto the first draft of the protocols on transhumance and the free movement of persons currently being negotiated by partner states in the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (Igad), South Sudan has so far made the stiffest demands targeting especially her EAC neighbours.
A critical point of departure is the pastoral communities across the border lines of South Sudan, Kenya and Uganda, whom South Sudan says would pose a major risk if a free movement protocol is concluded, potentially allowing Kenya’s Turkana cattle rustlers freer access than exists today.
Martin Elia Lomuro, South Sudan’s Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Co-operation, says Turkana pastoralists are the critical issue his country needs resolved before they can sign on to the two protocols.
Even if South Sudanese pastoralists have been previously reported to have carried out cattle raids in northern Uganda, Dr Lomuro says this is a practice that is largely being exported by Kenya’s Turkana pastoralists.
Kenya’s Turkana pastoralists were reported to have carried out cattle raids in Uganda over the dry season that ended in March.
“Some of you might have heard about some of our pastoralists already encroaching and extending the negative culture of cattle rustling into Uganda,” he told an Igad meeting in Kampala on April 23.
He added that traditional cattle conflict between the Turkana in Kenya and the Toposa and Didinga in South Sudan have to be dealt with before these countries can allow people the freedom to move with their livestock to graze in different Igad partner states.
Another issue that Dr Lomuro wants Igad and his South Sudanese compatriots to negotiate is how the region should deal with asylum seekers.
He said that countries cannot agree to protect all asylum seekers as this could contribute to the continued destabilisation of South Sudan.
“Today, South Sudan has very many politicians who reside in the capitals of the region. Some have huge properties and investments, inappropriately acquired from South Sudan,” he said.
Dr Lomuro said that such politicians cannot be treated as ordinary non-hostile, asylum seekers, as the inappropriately acquired wealth has been used to destabilise South Sudan.
The view to segregate asylum seekers has already received some support from Uganda.
Internal Affairs Minister Jeje Odongo said the government would work on identifying politicians who steal from South Sudan and use the proceeds to wage war.