Will Somalia join the EAC this year after DC Congo?

President of Somalia Hassan Sheikh Mohamud (left) pose for a photo with the EAC Secretary General, Peter Mathuki during his maiden visit to Mogadishu in October, 2022.  PHOTO | FILE

What you need to know:

  • Somalia applied to join the EAC way back in 2012 but has been overtaken by South Sudan and the DR Congo, which were admitted in 2016 and 2022, respectively.

Arusha. After last year’s fast-tracked admission of the DR Congo into the East African Community (EAC), Somalia will likely follow suit this year.

This time around, however, EAC boss Peter Mathuki will have put his negotiation skills in high gear to further the bloc’s expansion.

“Should everything go as planned, the entire process will be completed this year,” he intimated to The Citizen yesterday.

He said after the official launch of the EAC verification team to the Horn of Africa country that, as was the case for the DRC last year, the process would be fast-tracked.

Dr Mathuki, who spearheaded the admission of the DRC Congo after taking over as EAC boss in 2021, played down insecurity in Somalia as an obstacle.

“Other countries in the EAC have security challenges. Why should we allow conflicts to derail our goal of regional integration?” He asked.

However, the EAC chief acknowledged serious insecurity challenges that have tarnished Somalia’s image around the world.

“We are aware of bloody attacks in Somalia. EAC will have a mandate to address them once it joins the bloc,” he pointed out.

He pleaded during the hybrid launch of the verification exercise in Mogadishu that Somalia should not be seen from the negative side.

“We should not focus on the challenges alone. EAC has peace resolution mechanisms that would be applied to restore peace there,” he said.

The delayed admission of Somalia into the community has often been attributed to instability and decades-long bloody conflicts there.

The country applied to join the EAC way back in 2012 but has been overtaken by South Sudan and the DR Congo, which were admitted in 2016 and 2022, respectively.

EAC officials rarely discuss reasons behind Mogadishu’s admission delay but in private they could not hide their feelings on the country’s association with terrorism.

Somalia shares a long border with Kenya and, like Uganda and other neighbours, has suffered bloody terror attacks from the Al Shabaab terror group.

Although the EAC mission is in Mogadishu to assess the country’s readiness to join the community, Dr Mathuki said no time will be left to waste.

Between yesterday and February 3, the team will engage Somalia government officials to establish a level of conformity with the EAC admission criteria.

Once the verification is finalized, a report on the same will be presented to the EAC Council of Ministers, a powerful organ of the community.

The authoritative ministerial organ will table the report for consideration by the 23rd Summit of EAC Heads of State scheduled for the end of February 2023. The mission is set to make findings relating to the institutional, legal, and policy frameworks in place, as well as policies, strategies, projects, and programmes.

Others under the verification radar are areas of cooperation with other EAC partner states and expectations from membership.

As expected, the verification terms include the status of Somalia’s peace and security in the region as well as the rest of the world.

However, Dr Mathuki insisted on the economic benefits the EAC bloc would gain by admitting Somalia, which has been a trading partner.