The fate of South Sudan’s membership in the East African Community (EAC) will be known next month, the EAC Council of Ministers has assured the regional law making body in Arusha.
Adan Mohamed, the acting chairman of the EAC Council of Ministers and Kenya’s cabinet secretary for EAC and Regional Development, said the Council will meet next month to deliberate on delayed contributions from all partner states.
Mr Mohamed was responding to members of the East African Legislative Assembly (Eala) who were debating a petition by a regional activists’ forum to the House to ask the Council to recommend to the Heads of State Summit to invoke Articles 143 and 146 of the EAC Treaty.
“The decision to apply sanctions or suspend South Sudan’s membership will be high on the council’s agenda ahead of the EAC Heads of State Summit in November,” said Mr Mohamed.
By September 13, South Sudan owed the Community over $27 million, prompting activists and regional lawmakers to call for suspension of the membership of the newest partner state.
Article 143 says a partner state, which defaults in meeting its financial and other obligations, shall be subject to sanctions which the Council of Ministers will recommend to the summit.
Article 146(1) says the summit may suspend a partner state from taking part in activities of the bloc if it fails to fulfill fundamental principles and objectives of the treaty, including the failure to meet financial commitments to the community within a period of 18 months.
A suspended partner state shall cease to enjoy benefits provided for under the treaty but shall continue to be bound by membership obligations until the suspension is lifted, Article 146(2) says, in turn.
The East African Civil Society Organisation Forum (EACSOF) also asked Eala to demand for an increased EAC budget from the Council of Ministers for the bloc to cope with the rising wage bill compounded by its expanding scope and swelling number of its institutions.
EACSOF further asked Eala to put to task founding partners states—Tanzania and Kenya—for failing to clear their contributions to the 2018/19 budget.
“EACSOF is seriously worried about the dwindling contributions by partner states towards financing the EAC and more concerned by the non-remittance by one partner state,” the forum’s programme coordinator and acting CEO, Ms Martha Makenge, says in the petition to Eala.
The House unanimously concurred with the EACSOF’s petition adding that the EAC partner states’ delayed contributions were inhibiting the bloc from attaining goals it had set.
However, some Eala members sympathised with Juba on grounds that it was still going through political and security setbacks.
Ms Odok Woda defended her country saying it was committed to the integration agenda and that it had met all conditions stipulated in the EAC Treaty save for the contribution arrears whose payment was in progress.
Supporting Ms Odok, Paul Musamali from Uganda, said that even if all partner states remitted their contributions on time, the funds would still be inadequate to implement the $111-million EAC budget.
“If we really want our community to grow by leaps and bounds, it should refrain from depending on funds from partners and identify alternative sources of revenues for running it instead,” he suggested.
However, their counterparts Ms Fancy Nkuhi and Gorge Odongo from Tanzania and Uganda respectively, opined that the Treaty ought to be respected
in the spirit of regional integration.
South Sudan is the biggest defaulter followed by Burundi with $13 million, Tanzania $9 million, Kenya $8 million, Rwanda $7 million and Uganda $2 million. Only Rwanda and Uganda have remitted their contributions for 2019/2020 budget.