PUBLISHED ON August 7th, 2014


South Sudan’s membership to the East African Community (EAC) is inching closer with negotiations between the country and representatives from the bloc’s member states set to start early next month.

Each of the five EAC partner states has nominated three experts to sit at the negotiation table, with a team from South Sudan in forums that are expected to begin on November 7.

The negotiators will be charged with developing a programme and recommendations for South Sudan’s entry into the EAC.

“They [South Sudan] have written to us confirming that they will be attending the negotiation meetings in Arusha. The meeting will be key in determining whether, when and how South Sudan will join the EAC,” said EAC Deputy Secretary General for Planning and Infrastructure, Enos Bukuku.

In November 2011, months after becoming Africa’s newest state, South Sudan submitted an application to join the EAC. Since then, the country has been going through the paces as its bid for membership is processed by the Community.

The Community sent a verification committee to South Sudan in July 2012 to assess the country’s ability to meet the membership criteria set out in Article 3 of the EAC Treaty. Despite concerns about the development level of government institutions in the country, the verification report was approved by the Heads of State Summit last year.

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Ministers concerned with EAC affairs in the five countries then directed the Secretariat to convene a team that would begin the negotiation processes with South Sudan. After the technocrat’s meeting next month, recommendations will be forwarded to principal secretaries from EAC affairs ministries in the five countries before ministerial negotiations begin.

Dr Bukuku said that the verification process for Somalia, which had also applied to join the EAC, is yet to commence.

The entry of South Sudan into the Community would expand the region’s market growing the population by 10 million to about 150 million people. Kenya and Uganda stand to benefit as they trade the most with the landlocked country.

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“South Sudan’s economic interests are best routed through East Africa. The advantages of co-ordinating social-economic policy and opening up the South Sudanese market will be immediately felt by businesses in Kenya and Uganda,” said United States International University international relations scholar, Prof Macharia Munene.


However, the process could drag on significantly. Although the countries have made a commitment to fasttrack South Sudan’s membership, experts point out that the process will take at least four years.

Dr Bukuku said that the EAC partner states will have to hold South Sudan’s hand as it builds the institutions and formulates the policies that will be necessary before it fully meets membership criteria.

Source URL: The East African

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