The EAC chairman weighs in on South Sudan’s integration to the Customs Union.
South Sudan’s full integration into the East African Community’s (EAC) Customs Union is a process, the trade bloc’s Secretary-General Peter Mathuki said, adding that the secretariat was doing all possible to facilitate the process.
Mathuki made the announcement at a virtual news conference from his headquarters in Arusha, Tanzania, on Tuesday, April 12.
Last month, regional MPs expressed worry over the sluggish pace of South Sudan’s integration into the EAC Customs Union six years after the nation joined the six-member bloc.
“There is a plan outlining how we want to completely integrate them. The roadmap is currently being developed. “We are doing everything possible to completely integrate them,” Mathuki said.
He said that the secretariat is cognizant of South Sudan’s present situation, which involves peace stabilization.
“And we have been assisting them in ensuring that they stay peaceful,” he said, noting that in terms of properly integrating them into the Customs Union, a One-Stop Border Post already exists in Nimule, on the Uganda-South Sudan border.
And by that, I mean we’re planning and putting in place procedures to assist them. We are already collaborating extensively with many ministries to ensure that their systems perform well. And we have been entirely supportive of them. “
South Sudan filed for membership in the EAC in June 2011, only months after declaring independence from Sudan.
However, the subsequent political upheaval between government troops and rebels had a significant impact on it. It was recognized as the EAC’s sixth member in 2016.
Disparities in policy, legal, and regulatory frameworks, as well as South Sudan’s shift away from integration initiatives in favor of peace and national building, were among the issues highlighted in a parliamentary report explaining why very little progress has been made in integrating South Sudan into the EAC Customs Union.
Dr. Barnaba Marial Benjamin, the nation’s Minister of Presidential Affairs, informed the EAC Heads of State Summit on March 29 that his country is following the 2018 peace accord while preparing for elections scheduled for less than a year from now.
“As we speak, and as we recruit new staff for the Community, we have taken affirmative action to ensure that South Sudan is fully integrated, and we will have some people from the republic of South Sudan work at the secretariat, just as we did with other partner states when they joined,” Mathuki explained.
In December 2021, it was decided that, as is customary for new EAC members, South Sudan will get affirmative action in the same manner as Rwanda and Burundi did upon entering the group.
At the time, regional ministers decided that South Sudan would be offered 11 seats “in addition to the five shortlisted in the recruitment process.”
Mathuki determined that South Sudan’s integration into the EAC Customs Union will be a “journey.”
“It is occurring,” he said. It may not happen as quickly as we like, but I can assure you from where I sit that we are working with and supporting the republic of South Sudan.”