The Council of Ministers of the East African Community will meet in Arusha, Tanzania, next week, to consider several issues, including a request by the Republic of Sudan to join the regional grouping.
Reports indicate that in June, Sudanese President, Omar Al Bashir wrote to the chairperson of the EAC Summit, Burundian President Pierre Nkurunziza, expressing interest to have his country join the bloc.
Richard Owora Othieno, the head of corporate communication at the EAC Secretariat, said in interview that the Secretary General, Dr Richard Sezibera, circulated the information to all member states. For that reason, the ministers will meet to chart the way forward.
“As per the normal procedure, Dr Sezibera circulated the Republic of Sudan's communication to Partner States; so we expect the Council of Ministers to take note of this development and give guidance on the way forward,” Owora said.
If their application is considered, the Republic of Sudan will be subjected to the conditions of accession.
Article 3 (3) of the EAC Treaty sets out conditions for membership; including adherence to universally acceptable principles of good governance, democracy, the rule of law, observance of human rights and social justice.
Others are contribution towards 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.
The Minister for EAC, Monique Mukaruriza, acknowledged that they would first scrutinise if Sudan complies with the requirements to join the bloc.
She hastened to add that it would be a great opportunity for a big nation like Sudan to become a member.
“We shall first consider if they fulfil the necessary requirements to join the bloc…we cannot just allow any country to become a member simply because they have submitted their application.
“For the EAC, it will be an opportunity since it will expand the market because Sudan is very big in size,” the minister said.
The country’s attempt to join the EAC comes at a time when the five EAC member countries have made major steps including establishing a Customs Union and a Common Market.
During a recent visit to Kampala, the President of the newly created Republic of South Sudan, Salva Kiir also reiterated his country’s commitment to join the EAC “to reap the benefits of regional integration.
Another country that has reportedly expressed interested in joining the bloc is the Democratic Republic of Congo.