Burundi is ready to meet with a Southern African Development Community (SADC) team come May to evaluate its readiness to join the 16-member organisation as Bujumbura presses for membership. Burundian Foreign Affairs Minister Ezechiel Nibigira visited the chair of the SADC Summit, Namibian President Hage Geingob.
In 2017, Burundi applied for membership in SADC, but after scrutiny, Burundi’s application was put on hold.
Burundi’s application was assessed by the Inter-state Politics and Diplomacy Committee of SADC’s organ on politics, defence and security co-operation. The committee subsequently ruled out admission, citing instability.
In 2003, after a Summit in Dar es Salaam, SADC member states approved new criteria for admission of new member states, which included the observance of the principles of democracy, human rights, good governance and the rule of law, in accordance with the African Charter of Human and People’s Rights.
However, Nibigira said Burundi was now stable, following the 2015 political crisis that left almost 1,000 people dead and thousands more displaced.
If admitted, Burundi will be the second East African Community (EAC) member state to join SADC after Tanzania.
But there are strong reservations that Burundi’s application will this time meet with approval, due in part to its rocky relations with neighbouring Rwanda and Uganda.
Furthermore, Bujumbura’s membership of the EAC has been far from satisfactory, with it failing to contribute economically, and now owing the bloc over US$10 million.
Relations between Burundi and fellow EAC member, Rwanda have deteriorat
As early as late 2018, President Pierre Nkurunziza asked the East African Community to urgently convene an extraordinary summit to address the differences the ongoing standoff between Burundi and Rwanda.
Nkurunziza has on several occasions accused Rwanda of harbouring dissidents.
“We want EAC to intervene because the matter involves armed groups… People are getting killed and it shouldn’t be taken lightly,” he said.
“Burundi does not harbour bad intentions; Rwanda does, and we will continue to say it.”
Kigali has repeatedly denied allegations that it is meddling in Burundi’s politics, with President Paul Kagame recently saying Bujumbura has repeatedly provoked Kigali.
While presiding over a Rwanda Defence Forces (RDF) drill dubbed “Exercise Hard Punch III” at Gabiro Combat Training Centre in the Eastern Province, President Paul Kagame warned what he termed as enemies of Rwanda, that they will be dealt with decisively.
Tensions hit an all-time low when a letter by President Pierre Nkurunziza to President Yoweri Museveni, the former chairman of East African Community was leaked accusing Kigali of being an enemy of his government.
Nkurunziza accused Rwanda of being behind the 2015 failed coup, harbouring coup plotters and facilitating those wishing to destabilize Burundi.
Rwanda has persistently denied the accusations and accused Bujumbura of failing to deal with its own crisis.
During his recent state visit to Kenya, DR Congo newly elected President, Felix Tshisekedi said his country is willing to join the East African Community (EAC) to deepen its economic cooperation with the block.
Tshisekedi said the EAC benefits his citizens more, mainly those in the vast eastern part of the country.
Speaking while meeting Kenya’s President Uhuru Kenyatta in Nairobi, Tshisekedi, said that DRC would benefit more if it was a member of the EAC. EAC member states have for decades hosted refugees from DRC.
DRC joins Somalia which has for years now been lobbying to join the bloc. The EAC secretary general Liberat Mfumukeko
He added that the secretariat will be sending a preliminary team to Somalia “to assess the level of the country’s readiness”. This, according to him, would be followed by a verification exercise team on the same.
The team will be constituted by the EAC Council of Ministers, which is the policy organ of the Community.
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 and observance of human rights and social justice.
Others are geographical proximity to and interdependence between it (the applying state) to the EAC and maintenance of a market driven economy.
Somalia applied to join the EAC way back in 2013 but its application has been complicated by security concerns due to violent conflict in that country. EAC is composed of Rwanda, Burundi, Kenyan, Tanzania, Uganda and South Sudan. Somalia has not had a stable central government since 1991.
Somalia, a country where armies from three EAC countries are fighting Al-Qaeda-linked Al-Shabaab terrorists, borders Kenya.
Meanwhile, security concerns raised by member states of the bloc are seen as the biggest stumbling block to Somalia’s admission to the East African community.
The government of Somalia believes the admission into the regional bloc will play a key role in boosting the economy of the country while improving the trade relations with its neighbuors.
The relative calm experienced in several parts of the country in recent years led Somali exports mainly in the fishing and livestock increase.
Somalia was admitted into the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA) last year increasing the membership of the common market to 21.
Sudan also had applied to join however its application was rejected owing to the fact that it does not share a physical border with any EAC partner state.
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