Kampala- Talks to accept South Sudan as a member of the East African Community resume this week in Tanzania’s City Arusha, according to Dr Richard Sezibera, the East African Community Secretary General.
“We have been in touch with South Sudan and handling their request to join the EAC. Further negotiations resume this week in Arusha-Tanzania,” Dr Sezibera said Wednesday while visiting Monitor Publications Limited Head Office in Kampala.
South Sudan’s plan to join the EAC is likely to add 11 million people to a regional market that has 140 million people in the five states of Uganda, Rwanda, Kenya, Tanzania and Burundi.
EAC member states like Uganda and Kenya stand to benefit most from South Sudan which gives them a significant market. Currently, Uganda and Kenya’s annual exports to South Sudan are valued at over $200 million (Shs504 billion) and $180 million (Shs453.6 billion) respectively.
Mr Sezibera added that EAC Secretariat is committed to work closely with South Sudan to ensure “a smooth negotiation process”.
Last year, South Sudan had halted negotiations because of an armed conflict that broke out, displacing close to 2.2 million people and claiming hundreds killed. The conflict put 4.6m people at severe risk of food insecurity, according to the UN.
However, negotiations to return peace in South Sudan are under-way in Juba where regional leaders are expected to assign a peace pact.
South Sudan marked its independence from Sudan on July 9, 2011. It had been at war for almost half a century when the signing of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement in 2005 brought an end to a period of fighting, which begun in 1983.
The country was plunged into conflict once more in December 2013, when a political dispute between President Salva Kiir and Riek Machar, the former vice president, escalated into a war that has since taken on a tribal dimension.
Mr Kiir is a member of the Dinka, the largest tribe in the country, while Mr Machar is from the second-largest tribal community, the Nuer.
For South Sudan to become a member of the EAC has to meet the six conditions of acceptance into the Community as set out in the EAC Treaty which include: Adherence to universally acceptable principles of good governance, democracy, the rule of law and observance of human rights and social justice.
The Republic of South Sudan applied to join the East African Community on 10th June 2011. A Verification Committee from the EAC visited the Republic of South Sudan from 15th to 31st July, 2012 with the aim of establishing the Republic of South Sudan’s level of conformity with the Criteria for Admission of Foreign Countries into the East African Community as provided under Article 3 of the Treaty Establishing the EAC.
Based on recommendation of the report by the Verification Committee, the EAC Heads of State Summit in November 2012 directed the Council of Ministers to negotiate the admission of South Sudan putting into consideration the provision of the EAC Treaty on the criteria for joining the Community.
Based on the Summit directive, the EAC Council of Ministers established a High Level Negotiation Team and the Team is ready to start the negotiation process with the Republic of South Sudan.