South Sudan on Sunday said an attempt by Sudan to join the five-nation East African Community (EAC) regional body has hit a difficulty, saying the admission of Sudan would only be possible through the newly established Republic of South Sudan.
General Gier Chuang Aluong, minister of roads and bridges said in an interview with Sudan Tribune on Sunday that the decision was reached initially at a high level meeting of EAC officials early this week and endorsed by the higher decision making organs of the Community as well as in the Co-ordination Committee and the Council of Ministers meeting in Arusha in the northern Tanzania on Friday.
Minister Aluong, who held two ministerial posts in South Sudan’s regional government prior to independence in July, said the decision will be brought before the East Africa Community Heads of State meeting in Bujumbura, Burundi in November, which has the mandate to consider the position or reverse the decision.
“We are the gateway for admission of the Republic of Sudan into the East Africa Community. The Republic of Sudan’s application does not meet the EAC Treaty’s criteria at least at this stage,” Aluong explained in an interview with Sudan Tribune.
He said the Treaty states that any country which wishes to join the regional bloc must be of a geographical proximity to the current members, which is not the case with Sudan since the partition of South Sudan.
“North Sudan’s application can only sail through if South Sudan joins the EAC,’’ added the minister. South Sudan became an independent state in July, after decades of civil war with the North.
South Sudan borders with the EAC partner states of Uganda and Kenya.
But its regional proximity is not the only issue for Sudan’s entry into the regional bloc. North Sudan’s human rights record, especially in connection with ethnic cleansing in the Darfur region is thought to be of concern.
The senior member of South Sudan‘s ruling party, the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement (SPLM) also explained that the EAC Treaty requires that any country that wishes to join has to adhere to universally accepted principles of good governance, democracy, the rule of law, observance of human rights and social justice.
“These requirements are extremely questionable at this stage with North Sudan,” he said.
“I am told there were attempts [by] Burundi and Tanzania to include French and Kiswahili as official language for East Africa community. These requests have been shelved probably because the community is expecting the south to join its membership”, he explained.
Currently, English is the only official working language of the EAC. It was resolved that a team of experts look at the cost analysis of joining the EAC and a report be presented at the next Council of Ministers meeting.
The EAC was revived in 1999 by the three founding partners of Kenya, Uganda and Tanzania. Rwanda and Burundi joined the bloc in 2007. The former EAC collapsed in 1977 largely because of ideological differences among member states.