Why Sudan’s EAC application was rejected
On Wednesday last week, the 13th East Africa Heads of State Summit meeting in Burundi’s capital Bujumbura rejected Sudan’s application to join the East African Community.
According to the EAC Secretary General Richard Sezibera, Sudan does not meet requirements set out in the Treaty establishing the Community.
“The summit observed that this application does not meet the criterion on geographical proximity and contiguity and cannot therefore be considered at this point in time,” he said in a final communiqué issued by after the summit.
This put to rest the matter that had polarized the EAC council of ministers that debated the issue before the summit. In that meeting, Rwanda, Burundi and Kenya ministers supported the application while Uganda and Tanzania objected.
According to article 3 of the EAC treaty new member-states can be admitted only if they share a common border with the bloc and any country seeking admission must have a market-driven economy and practicing democratic governance.
Sudan does not sharing a border with east Africa after South Sudan seceded this year. Juba’s application will be considered next year.
Analysts say Juba’s delayed application was a tactical move aimed at failing Khartoum’s entry into the EAC.
Speaking to the press after the ministers’ meeting last week, Uganda’s Eriya Kategaya said; “We rejected their application after looking at several issues like their democracy, the way they treat women and their religious politics and we feel they don’t qualify.”
His response, however, points to the poor relations between Sudan and Uganda which could have also provided another sure obstacle. Kampala and Khartoum have previously accused each other of supporting dissidents.
While Uganda accused Sudan of backing Joseph Kony’s Lord Resistance Army rebels, Sudan accused Kampala of supporting towards the SPLA/M that fought a long civil war in the south that ended in 2005 after the signing of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement in Nairobi, Kenya in 2005.
Bashir’s international status as a wanted man by the ICC presented another huddle. First, its admission would have sent a wrong signal to the international community especially the west whose dislike for Bashir is well documented.
The breakdown in diplomatic relations between Sudan and Kenya last week also came at the wrong time. On Tuesday last week, Khartoum closed the Kenyan embassy in Sudan and recalled its own diplomats in Nairobi. This followed verdict in the Kenyan court that Bashir would be arrested and handed over to the ICC if he set foot in Kenya.
President Paul Kagame is one of those who earlier supported Sudan’s application. Even though he didn’t attend the summit because he was in South Korea, his ideas on the matter are well known.
The President has believes that a bigger bloc offers more regional opportunities than challenges. “We should be looking at it (Sudan’s entry) positively even though there are problems associated with this expansion,” he said in October.
He added that the risks associated with a bigger trade bloc, should not stop entry of new members. “Though bigger and broader integration comes with challenges, it also comes with benefits if you look at it in terms of trade, investment and different capacities,” he said.
Some analysts however contend that Sudan’s admission would be good for regional security since all players in the Great Lakes region would be bound by certain values hence making it easy to maintain good relations.
Gonza Muganwa, a social and political analyst says Kagame’s support for Sudan’s entry into the EAC could be linked with Rwanda’s peacekeeping mission in Sudan’s Darfur region.
“Rwanda would therefore want to have a more peaceful relationship with Sudan not to endanger its peacekeeping troops in Darfur,” he said. But Gonza hastened to add that, in the long run, all five east African states would agree that Sudan does not qualify to join the bloc considering its poor human rights record and democratic credentials.
“I didn’t expect the five states to admit Sudan in the long run even though ministers from Rwanda, Burundi and Kenya had no objection during their meeting because Sudan simply doesn’t meet the conditions for admission,” added Gonza.