ARUSHA - The Minister for EAC Affairs, Monique Mukaruliza has made clear the country’s position concerning the Republic of Sudan’s bid to join the bloc, saying that Rwanda will always follow the procedures stipulated by the treaty.
This follows reports in regional media that claim Rwanda is backing Khartoum’s application to the regional grouping, allegations that minister dismisses as baseless.
The 23rd Meeting of the EAC Council of Ministers concluded recently in Arusha, with the ministers agreeing to leave Sudan’s entry into the bloc to the Heads of State Summit that will convene in November this year in Bujumbura, Burundi.
Reports indicate that during the Arusha meeting, some member states called for a comprehensive assessment of Khartoum application’s to make it easier for the Summit to reach an informed decision on the matter, while others flatly objected, saying that Sudan did not meet the requirements.
“As Rwanda, we follow the principles and transparency. As it was done in the case of Rwanda and Burundi, it should be the same for Sudan. We applied to join the bloc in 1996, then they sent an assessment team to establish if we met the requirements; this should be the same for Sudan,” she said.
She said that doors are open for every country in the region to join the bloc, as long as they meet the requirements.
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.
It stipulates that for a country to be allowed as member, it should be able to contribute towards the strengthening of integration within the region; geographical proximity to and inter-dependence between it and the partner states besides establishment and maintenance of a market driven economy.
Mukaruruza slammed the media’s misinterpretation of the country’s position, saying that the decision would be made by a summit involving the region’s top leadership.
In an interview with The New Times, Prof. Manasseh Nshuti, an economic expert, termed the Sudan’s entry as the rightful path to spur the region’s economic growth.
“In my own opinion, what we need is expansion of the market. I think Sudan should be allowed to join EAC; we need a bigger market to extend our products,” he said.
Asked about Sudan’s proximity to the region, Nshuti noted that a bordering member state should not be taken as a serious issue citing Libya that is part of COMESA yet it does not share a border to any member state.
“Libya joined COMESA and it has no border with any member country, the issue is broadening the market not borders; however we should forget the political side of it by only focusing on economic benefits.”
Abdul Ndarubogoye, a businessman acknowledged that it would be a huge opportunity for Sudan to be part of EAC, saying that the country possesses natural resources that would back the economic growth of the bloc.
Other probable future members of the bloc include South Sudan and the Democratic Republic of Congo.