Home | Comment & Analysis    Tuesday 27 September 2011

Turn down Khartoum’s request for East Africa membership

By Isaiah Abraham

September 27, 2011 — The Republic of the Sudan has formally written to East African Community (EAC) leadership in Arusha for membership. The Secretariat or the Chairperson of the Bloc, the current President of the Republic of Burundi has yet to officially respond to Khartoum. The EAC was formed in 1967, but collapsed in 1977. It was revived in 2001 however. Rwanda and Burundi had since joined the community in 2007. The bloc has a population of over 130 million people, and has Gross Domestic Product of 75 US$ billion. The mission of the bloc is to deepen and widen political, economic, social and cultural integration for the people of East Africa. The leaders are slowly moving towards political integration, as economic side is shaping up.

South Sudan after it became a state was expected to join the bloc but dithered or procrastinate for reasons that are both real and imaginary. There have been debate towards that end anyway, and Juba hasn’t publicly made its position clear. But on the side of the EAC, there seem to be good will to admit South Sudan. East African Parliament has hinted that it could admit South Sudan with no much effort. Leaders of the Region have all wish that the new republic of South Sudan join them as soon as possible.

But from nowhere Khartoum jumped and leapfrogged Juba something so surprising to many. The decision by Sudan to join EAC has complicated things for the East African leadership as a whole but particularly Juba. If Juba applies now, it will put the Arusha team in an awkward position of balancing between the two requests. For instance, if Khartoum application is rejected and that of the South Sudan is accepted, Arusha will have to justify it more convincingly.

The reality though is that Khartoum request must be rejected on the basis that it has virtually nothing to ‘deepen’ or ‘widen’ with the rest of the East African Community. Khartoum is distinct and has nothing in common with the people of EAC. Juba on the other hand is preferable because of its political and social affinity with the people of East Africa. Khartoum is culturally an Arabized and Islamized one. Khartoum furthermore has no borders with the rest of the East African Community. In the future if South Sudan is admitted, the South will act as a conduit for movements of goods and people for the people of the Republic of the Sudan. For now, they should look for market elsewhere not in the East Africa.

There must be reasons why Khartoum want to join EAC bloc at this point in time, something they didn’t do for the past fifty or so years after independence in 1956. We shall casually examine a few in the next clauses. We all know that the futile economic war wage by Khartoum against South Sudan has retrospectively affected Khartoum more than the South. Khartoum economic status is in an unstoppable dive. Analysts have already predicted sharp economic deterioration in few years to come unless something is done now. For the past ten years, Khartoum has enjoy enough income through oil, and with the South packing, Khartoum is desperate to find enough money to keep support the huge army and its security organs. There is war everywhere, and this activity needs money. Khartoum thought by going East African, it liquidity problem would be addressed.

Little did they know that their application to join EAC, has raised more eyebrows and questions than answers. There is an element of theoretical dimension, something so close to political maneuver to outsmart if not to outwit and dilute South Sudan entry in to the bloc. You see, Sudan has unfinished business against the Republic of South Sudan, its avowed archival. This is how: Khartoum is aware of dilemma in which the South is in at the moment as to EAC membership. The economy of the EAC countries for the past few years has been steady and quiet impressive. South Sudan intention to join under its current economic shape is shaky. To join will mean that South Sudan must be ready to compete with the giants of Kenya, Uganda and Tanzania. Juba is delaying for understandable reasons, and with time, it will lodge a request, something the sisters of East Africa will definitely granted.

Khartoum in this juncture wants to capitalize on this short term strategy by Juba so to scoop whatever it wants before South Sudan became an official member. Sudan understands the bitter past of the two countries and if it joins first, the South might turn away or decline to go there. There is too much bad blood between the two countries and this will not go away overnight. Juba has suffered an economic blockage for the past seven months, but impact isn’t that much as East Africa stood in for the South.

So Khartoum is cleverly playing politics in its impending difficult economic meltdown It is my wish that the regional leaders turn Khartoum away from joining the bloc, that country is a trouble maker and might cause problems to the rest of East Africa through its ideological orientation and poor partnership. They must be rejected and ask to go to Arab countries for trade or any other integration. Long live East African Community. down with Khartoum!

Isaiah Abraham lives in Juba; he can be contacted at isaiah_abraham@yahoo.co.uk