MORE MISCHIEF FROM THE KHARTOUM REGIME
Khartoum’s formal application to join the East African Community has been received with some incredulity in Arusha, causing a blinding diplomatic headache to community bureaucrats and the member states.
No longer having any direct borders with any of the East African Community, the regime in Khartoum is thought to have placed their membership application to not only spite the new Republic of South Sudan but also to cause maximum diplomatic discomfort and division between the 5 present members.
South Sudan has made it known in the past that soon after independence they would place a membership application with the EAC, something warmly welcomed at the time by friendly governments in Uganda, Kenya, Rwanda, Tanzania and Burundi, as the ascencion of the new country to the regional trading bloc is considered a natural expansion and inclusion of an already strong trade partner.
Airlinks are already strong with multiple flights each day between Nairobi and Juba and daily flights between Entebbe and Juba and road links between Uganda and South Sudan are a priority for both countries to improve transport infrastructure. A planned rail link from Juba to the Indian Ocean, either to Mombasa or to the newly planned port of Lamu, is also at an advanced stage of preparation and there are intense talks ongoing between the government in Juba and neighbours Uganda and Kenya over a ‘re-routing’ of its oil infrastructure, aiming to create a new gateway ‘South’ instead of relying on the radical and largely considered hostile North Sudan which is already blackmailing Juba with demands for extraordinary oil transit fees.
The joining of the South Sudan into the EAC has now taken a knock, as the EAC would ordinarily be bound to deal with new applications for membership in the order they are received and when RoSS submits their paperwork only time will tell which of the two will beat the other to the door of the EAC.
Conventional wisdom though has it that South Sudan will still make it first into the trade bloc as the harmonization of laws and regulations required for applicant countries will create huge obstacles for the radicals in Khartoum, which still largely is an economy run by decrees rather than open to market forces and where in particular an entire range of laws as well the judicial system is alien to the predominantly English speaking East African nations where the British influence on laws is still widely visible.
A regular source in Juba had this to say overnight: ‘We have not been officially told from Arusha that Khartoum has applied to join. If they did, it is one of their usual tactics to upstage us, trying to undermine us and to create diversion and maybe even disagreements amongst our EAC friends. They will not succeed. Our ties with Uganda and Kenya are very strong, we have a long history together and they are our biggest trading partners. We get supplies from Mombasa port and buy goods from Uganda through open trade routes which Khartoum is denying us, which Khartoum can close at will to cut us off. We know where we belong and our friends in EAC also know where we belong. Khartoum has to change completely, politically, legally, economically if they want to succeed joining EAC. We are committed to harmonize but I tell you, Khartoum cannot do that and they lack the political will to modernize their country’.
Watch this space as the newly independent Republic of South Sudan is now dealing with their challenges to claim a rightful place amongst the Eastern African nations.