NAIROBI, Kenya, Jan 25 — East African Community (EAC) Secretary General Mutuku Mathuki has termed the anticipated inclusion of Somalia in the regional bloc as a key step towards enhancing economic integration and intra-regional trade.
Speaking on Wednesday after launching a week-long Verification Mission to review Somalia’s bid to join the seven-member regional bloc, Mathuki said Somalia’s bid is timely.
He cited Somalia’s expansive 3,000-kilometre coastline linking Africa to the Arabian Peninsula as a crucial asset the region could into.
“Somalia has the longest national coastline of over 3,000 kms in Africa, linking Africa to the Arabian Peninsula, which the region can tap into to increase intra-regional trade and improve the lives of East Africans,” he said.
Somalia’s Foreign Minister Abshir Omar said the bid to join the regional bloc only seeks to formalize existing cooperation between Somalia and its neighbors in the region.
“Somalis are already present in the EAC. The Somalis started integrating with their brothers and sisters of the region way before the request of formalizing the decision of joining the EAC,” he stated.
The verification team comprising of representatives from all EAC Members States is expected to make an assessment to be condensed into a report on Somalia’s readiness to be admitted to the bloc.
Mathuki said the verification team will interrogate the country’s institutional, legal frameworks and strategies in place to enhance cooperation.
“The verification team is set to make findings relating to the institutional frameworks in place; legal frameworks; policies, strategies, projects and programmes; areas of Cooperation with other EAC Partner States and expectations from its membership,” he said.
Somalia expressed interest in July 2022 to join the bloc founded in 1967 by Kenya, Tanzania and Uganda and revamped in 2000 after collapse in 1977.
Sheikh Mohamud’s bid
Somalia President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud made a high-level visit to EAC headquarters at the time where he formally launched a bid to mobilize support from Member States.
Mohamud’s visit coincided with a High-Level Retreat by EAC Heads of State to review the region’s common market protocol.
The Democratic Republic of Congo is the latest State in the region to join EAC after concluding its admission in April 2022.
Rwanda and Burundi joined the bloc in 2007 while South Sudan became a Member State in 2016.
Requirements for accession
Somalia’s accession to the EAC could take up to two years with the final decision on admission resting with the Summit of the bloc’s Heads of State.
The Summit considers admission upon satisfying all the conditions under Articles 3 and 4 of the Treaty for the establishment of the EAC.
Under Article 3 which spells up the membership of the community sets the admission criteria to include an applicant’s: acceptance of the Community as set out in this Treaty and adherence to universally acceptable principles of good governance, democracy, the rule of law, observance of human rights and social justice.
Other requirements include potential contribution to the strengthening of integration within the East African region; geographical proximity to and inter-dependence between it and the Partner States; establishment and maintenance of a market driven economy; and social and economic policies being compatible with those of the Community.
Although Kenya, a chief crusader behind successful bids by DRC and South Sudan in the past, is yet to comment on Somalia’s intention to join the region, analysts say Nairobi will back Mogadishu’s bid.
“Kenya, Uganda and Tanzania all said favourable, keen to get Somalia into the EAC,” Rashid Abdi, an analyst on Horn of Africa and the Gulf, said.