The 18th Extraordinary Summit of the East African Community (EAC) Heads of State due to be held on Wednesday has been postponed.
EAC chairman President Paul Kagame of Rwanda had called the meeting to deliberate on the regional response to the coronavirus pandemic.
However, EAC Secretary General Liberat Mfumukeko, on Wednesday said the summit, expected be held via a video conferencing, had been postponed to a later date at the request of South Sudanese President Salva Kiir.
“The 18th Extraordinary Summit had been called by chairperson Paul Kagame, specifically to exchange on the regional response against Covid-19, including its fiscal, economic and social consequences on the Community,” Mr Mfumukeko said in the statement.
Rwanda’s Foreign Affairs minister and chairman of the EAC Council of Ministers, Vincent Biruta, said a new date would be set for the extraordinary summit.
The forum has been postponed before. South Sudan sought the deferment of the summit slated for February 29 as it was engaged in finalising the formation a transitional government of national unity.
The EAC Treaty requires the bloc to hold at least one meeting of the highest organ a year with representation of all six partner states of Burundi, Kenya, Rwanda, South Sudan, Tanzania and Uganda.
According to Rule 11 of the Rules of Procedure of the community, the Summit EAC Heads of State quorum is made of all partner states representation, which is in consonance with decision making by consensus under Article 12 of the Treaty.
Mr Mfumukeko told journalists on Wednesday that South Sudan was “reorganising" following years of civil unrest.
“All of us should be very sensitive to what is happening to South Sudan,” Mr Mfumukeko told journalists who had sought to know why Juba requested the postponement of the summit.
“The country has faced many challenges for many years before it recently formed a government of national unity,” he said, adding that: “They’re reorganising and this is not a very simple task.”
All EAC member states have been hit by coronavirus, forcing them to impose movement restrictions and nationwide lockdown.
As of Wednesday, Kenya had recorded 225 Covid-19 cases with 10 deaths, Rwanda 136cases, Uganda 55, Tanzania 88 with four deaths, Burundi five cases and one death, while South Sudan has reported four cases.
Rwanda, South Sudan and Uganda have not reported any deaths.
Ministers responsible health and EAC Affairs met on March 25, 2020 and issued several directives regarding the Covid-19 outbreak to all six partner states.
They directed all partner states to continue implementing mandatory quarantine for 14 days for all travellers to the region, and to avoid imported cases by implementing strict screening procedures at all border points.
The EAC Secretariat should suspend regional face-to-face meetings, urging organs and institutions to utilise modern technology such as videoconferencing.
Partner states should implement by 100 percent exit and entry screenings by applying the multilayer mechanism to avoid some loopholes, such as transit passengers.
Cross-border movement of people while facilitating free movements of goods and services in the region should be minimised to ensure trade continues unhindered throughout the region.
The EAC Partner states should also provide additional contingency and emergency funds to mitigate the impact of the Covid -19 in the region.
They should, along with the EAC Secretariat, mobilise resources and invest in public health systems to ensure resilience and health security.
The Covid-19 disease, which was first reported in Wuhan, China in December, has killed at least 126,839 people worldwide with at least 2,004,991 infections.
Some 485,827people have recovered globally, according to Worldometer's count on Wednesday.