The East African Community has once more expanded its borders and market size with the admission of the Federal Republic of Somalia as the 8th member of the bloc.
The Summit of the East African Community (EAC) Heads of State at their 23rd Ordinary Meeting held in Arusha, Tanzania on Friday, 24th November, 2023 considered the Report of the EAC Council of Ministers on the Negotiations with the Federal Republic of Somalia into the EAC, and resolved to admit Somalia as a full member of the Community.
The Summit further designated the Chairperson of the Summit, H.E. Salva Kiir Mayardit, the President of the Republic of South Sudan, to agree with Somalia on when to sign the Treaty of Accession of the Somalia into the Community.
The Summit further directed that within six (6) months after the signing of the Treaty of Accession, Somalia shall be required to deposit the instrument of ratification with the Secretary General.
The Heads of State directed the Council of Ministers to develop a roadmap for the integration of Somalia into the Community and report progress to the next meeting of the Summit.
Speaking shortly after the Summit admitted his country into the bloc, Somalia’s President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud described the decision as a historic one, adding that the move will be mutually beneficial for both Somalia and the EAC.
President Mohamud said that Somalia’s journey has been one of resilience and perseverance against many odds but with a singular commitment to peace and cooperation in East Africa and the African continent at large.
President Mohamud said that Somalia brings to the bloc her rich culture, heritage and strategic location with 3,000 miles along the Indian Ocean coastline, adding that Somalia would create an environment conducive to trade and prosperity within its national borders.
He said that Somalia belongs to EAC with all Partner States linked to his country through historical, cultural and linguistic bonds, even as he added that Somalia’s borders would be bridges as opposed to barriers for trade.
On the ongoing national consultations for the Drafting of the Constitution of the EAC Political Confederation, the Summit called upon the United Republic of Tanzania, the Republic of Rwanda and the Democratic Republic of Congo to conclude the consultations process by 30th May, 2024.
The Summit urged Partner States that have not submitted the names of Constitutional Experts to do so by 31st December, 2023. The Summit also adopted a roadmap for the expeditious conclusion of the process.
On the ongoing conflict in Eastern DRC, the Summit noted that the DRC will not extend the mandate of the EAC Regional Force (EACRF) beyond 8th December, 2023. The Summit therefore directed that the Chiefs of Defence Forces of EAC and SADC meet before 8th December, 2023 and submit their recommendations on the way forward to the Defence Ministers for onward transmission to the Summit for consideration.
On the Sustainable Financing Model for the Community, the Summit agreed on a 65% (Equal Contribution) and 35% (Assessed Contributions) financing formula. The Summit further directed the Council of Ministers to pursue strategic spending rationalisation measures, institutional strengthening and strict sanctions for the defaulting Partner States and report to the 24th Summit.
The Summit assented to four (4) Bills passed by the East African Legislative Assembly, namely: the East African Competition Authority (Amendment) Bill, 2022; the East African Community Appropriation Bill, 2022; the East African Community Supplementary Appropriation Bill, 2022, and; the East African Community Supplementary Appropriation (No. 2) Bill.
The Heads of State further directed the Council to expedite the amendment of Article 137 of the Treaty and fast-track the modalities for the use of Kiswahili and French as official languages of the Community. The Summit had at its 21st Ordinary Meeting held on 27th February, 2021 adopted the two languages as official languages of the Community in addition to English.
Speaking at the event, President Salva Kiir who is the new Chairperson of the EAC, said that South Sudan strongly believes in the ability of bloc to address the common challenges that face the region and Africa.
President Kiir thanked the 22nd Ordinary Summit for waiving arrears to the bloc accrued by South Sudan over the years and disclosed that South Sudan would henceforth remit its annual contributions on a timely basis.
On the security situation in eastern DRC, President Kiir said that the solution to the crisis lies in negotiations between the government of DRC and the rebel groups operating in the area. He urged EAC Heads of State to remain committed to the Nairobi Process on the restoration of peace in eastern DRC.
In his speech, Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni said that the integration of EAC Partner States’ markets was the key to bringing about economic growth in the region, adding that an expanded market is a stimulus for wealth creation and prosperity.
President Museveni said that strategic security through cooperation among Partner States was also critical, adding that business thrives in an atmosphere of peace and stability.
President Museveni singled out solidarity in the EAC as another reason for expediting integration noting that the peoples of East Africa were interlinked by similar cultures, languages and history with the Kiswahili language as a uniting factor.
On his part, Burundian President Evariste Ndayishimiye who is the immediate former Chairperson of the Summit, said that the ceasefire violations of 6th October, 2023 had escalated into a large-scale conflict that threaten the Nairobi Process.
President Ndayishimiye said that over the past one year as EAC Chairman, he had convened three (3) Extra-Ordinary Meetings of the Summit to deliberate on the conflict in eastern DRC and thanked Summit members for offering leadership and advice on how to resolve the conflict.
President Ndayishimiye said that the people of East Africa were eager for a borderless and integrated region and were looking up to their leaders to fast-track and implement cross-border programmes and projects that will improve their lives.
In her remarks, Tanzania’s President Mama Samia Suluhu Hassan called for the speedy elimination of Non-tariff Barriers that hinder the growth of intra-regional trade in East Africa.
Mama Hassan said that the factors that bring East Africans together outweigh those that set them apart, adding that it was now time for the EAC leadership to take the integration process to the next level for the sake of future generations.
Addressing the Summit, President William Samoei Ruto of Kenya said that the entry of Somalia into the bloc expands the Common Market by an extra 15 million people, reinforcing the EAC’s position as the most integrated and progressive bloc in Africa.
President Ruto said that the full implementation of the EAC Common Market Protocol would unlock the region’s vast potential and allow for the full exploitation of the numerous underlying opportunities.
Dr. Ruto called for the hastening the process of political integration in the region noting that it is East Africa that would eventually unite the African continent.
In his speech, Rwanda’s Prime Minister Édouard Ngirente hailed the Summit for its efforts to promote peace, stability and security in East Africa, adding that these are the prerequisites for prosperity.
Rt. Hon. Ngirente, who represented President Paul Kagame, said it was encouraging that there was increasing cooperation among EAC Partner States with projects continuing to grow even in the face of limited funding.
The Heads of State wished DRC a peaceful election in December 2023 noting that the polls were an indicator of the Central African country’s growing culture of democracy.
On his part, DRC’s Vice Premier and Minister of Defence Jean-Pierre Bemba said that 2.4 million people in eastern DRC had been displaced by the ongoing conflict and there was an urgent need to find a solution so that they can return to their homes and normal business.
H.E. Bemba, who represented President Félix Antoine Tshisekedi Tshilombo hailed the Summit for its efforts in restoring peace to the region through the Nairobi process, and expressed happiness that the 23rd Ordinary Summit had deliberated on ways to resolve the conflict.
Courtesy: EAC Secretariat