PUBLISHED ON July 24th, 2014


The escalation of fighting between government forces and those loyal to former vice president turned-rebel Riek Machar in South Sudan is among the reasons that Juba sought a postponement of a decision on its bid to join the East African Community in a meeting held in Arusha last week.

EAC presidents attending the Extraordinary Heads of State Summit in Arusha, Tanzania on Wednesday agreed that the final negotiations on the bid by South Sudan should begin in September following a request by Juba to defer the process to allow for national consultation and preparations.

South Sudan, in a letter to EAC Secretary-General Richard Sezibera, dated March 26, 2014, asked for up to six months before it can defend its application with the EAC high level negotiation team.

Specifically, Juba cited the need for it to create sub-technical committees, train civil servants in EAC policy and programmes; and sensitise the private sector and civil society.

“We reckon that in order to carry out these preparatory activities, South Sudan requires an additional five-six months before our country will be in position to commence the negotiations. We would, therefore, like to propose for the first round of the negotiations to take place sometime in the months of September-October, 2014, at a mutually agreeable date,” reads the letter signed by Barnaba Marial Benjamin and Aggrey Tisa Sabuni, the Ministers in charge of Foreign Affairs and Finance respectively.

However, EAC officials privy to the bid said member states were “uncomfortable considering the application” when the country was in conflict and none of the protagonists was willing to stop the fighting.

READ: South Sudan bid to join EAC may suffer another blow

A ceasefire agreement signed on January 23, in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, under the aegis of the Inter-Governmental Authority on Development (Igad) has failed to hold in the absence of a clear enforcement mechanism.

The final negotiations on admission of South Sudan to the EAC were to begin in January and end in April this year, just before the Summit, and submitted to it for a final decision.

READ: Juba to know EAC fate next April

But the negotiations stalled, apparently due to the conflict that started last December. Dr Sezibera said South Sudan has established a high level ministerial committee to spearhead negotiation with the EAC.

“For the negotiations to begin, the EAC presidents will have to wait until there is a stable functioning government in place and this could take more than a year,” said David Kikaya, a lecturer on international relations at the United States International University.

In an earlier letter dated January 14, to the EAC Secretary-General, the Government of South Sudan requested for the postponement of negotiations to enable it get ready.

“There is currently no order in South Sudan to deal with issues like joining the EAC,” said John Gachie, a Nairobi-based political analyst, adding that the issue of joining the Community is now not a priority. “How to stop the fighting and get things back to normal is now the priority.”

The heads of state of the five East African countries — Kenya, Uganda, Rwanda, Tanzania and Burundi — have been calling for an immediate end to hostilities in South Sudan, asking the South Sudanese leaders to respect the terms of the ceasefire.

Source: The East African

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