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Khartoum, Somalia to dominate East African Community summit

The forthcoming summit of the East African Community Heads of State in Bujumbura, Burundi has its plate full of complex issues that will determine the fate of the integration process.

The 13th Ordinary Summit slated for November 30 under its chairman, President Pierre Nkurunziza of Burundi, will be attended by all the regional presidents, officials confirmed. President Mwai Kibaki of Kenya will take over as the next chairman.

Among the issues on the agenda are the admission of Sudan to the EAC and the ongoing war against the Al Shabaab militia in Somalia. Other issues that need the guidance of the Summit are the concerns and challenges of the Political Federation.

Khartoum’s application to the EAC ahead of South Sudan — its rival — has the backing of Rwanda, but faces opposition from Tanzania and Uganda. Kenya and the current chair, Burundi, were reserved during the recent EAC Council of Ministers crucial talks in Arusha.

Khartoum’s lack of proximity with other EAC member states to allow for sharing of services is one of the factors cited by Dar and Kampala. Kampala has also been uncomfortable with Khartoum over allegations that Sudan hosted the rebel Lord’s Resistance Army that waged a two decade insurgency in northern Uganda.

Khartoum’s poor human rights record also featured prominently during the meeting. Others, however, are of the view that Sudan can only join the community after South Sudan, which shares borders with Kenya and Uganda.

The treaty requires that any country wishing to join the EAC must be in geographical continguity with other member states.

But, for President Paul Kagame, a bigger trade bloc offers more opportunities to regional economies. “We should be looking at it positively even though we are aware there are problems associated with this expansion,” President Kagame said at a press briefing

Miriam Matinda, a lawyer with the Legal and Human Rights Centre, said the heads of states must remind themselves about the description of the EAC, before deciding whether it is rational to accept Khartoum or not.

“If the EAC is just a name, then any country like Nigeria, Libya or German, France, and even Italy could one day join the Community. I don’t know whether the EAC would still retain the same meaning, if if that happened,” she argued.

EAC Secretariat ppokesperson Richard Owora was non-committal on whether the green light for Khartoum’s application to join the bloc was imminent.

The EAC heads of state, will look into the issue of sanctions against warmongering Somali politicians.

Analysts say the sanctions against Somalia are inevitable taking into consideration the recent Al Shaabab terror activity in Kenya.

Citing the continued lack of security in Somalia as a threat to peace and security, the EAC Sectoral Council on Co-operation in Defence recently proposed sanctions against all Somali politicians.

“Lack of engagement in the Somalia crisis could lead to instability in the whole East African region. Accordingly there is urgent need to galvanize solidarity and more resources for this cause,” the Sectoral Council report reads.

The Council of Ministers, meeting recently in Arusha, adopted the decisions of the Sectoral Council on Co-operation in Defence and forwarded the same to the Heads of the State Summit for consideration and guidance.

Though both EAC reports are silent on the form of sanctions to be meted out, sources say it will involve travel bans and probably a freeze on financial assets of politicians considered to be obstacles to the Somalia peace process.

Dr Gasper Mpehongwa, a lecturer in development studies at Tumaini University in Moshi, Kilimanjaro Region supported the EAC move, saying it was the right decision in an effort to end the impunity with which militants operate.

He proposed that the EAC embargo be comprehensive, with an eye to crippling the financial muscle of Somali politicians.
The Summit will decide to either pave way for the full transformation of the region into a fully-fledged Customs Union or put it on hold.

One would think that with a functioning Customs Union, the EAC’s technocrats would be toasting in self-congratulation.

After all, trade performance trends indicate that between 2005 and 2009, intra-EAC trade grew by 40 per cent, revenues shot to nearly $3 billion and even if still encumbered with imperfections, the EAC (its Customs Union included) is lauded as “the model” regional integration project on the continent.

Source: The East African

MaakhirNews.com

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