Let’s embrace the accession of South Sudan to the EAC

A key feature of South Sudan’s membership is undoubtedly the thrust on strengthening the already existing market especially for agricultural produce

By Ronex Kisembo Tendo
New Vision

The 17th East African Community Heads of State Summit admitted South Sudan as a new member of the East African Community partner states. This historical endorsement was made on Wednesday, March 2, 2016 in Arusha- Tanzania. Negotiations to South Sudan’s accession to the EAC began in November 2014 and truly there has been relatively an accelerated timeline to their conclusion. This clearly shows the willingness of all stakeholders to have the World’s newest nation join the East African community. The whole idea of the EAC integration is largely about creation of a wider market base, infrastructure development and guaranteed security within the region. The inclusion of south Sudan as an EAC partner state certainly provides a much needed push for both a wider market base from 150 million people to 162 millions and ultimately a beam of light in our regional security angle. A key feature of South Sudan’s membership is undoubtedly the thrust on strengthening the already existing market especially for agricultural produce. Here, Uganda and Kenya have significantly enjoyed trading with South Sudan and this has resulted into traders bringing in millions of dollars that have boosted our foreign exchange base. As for infrastructure development, we are likely to witness a tremendous improvement of the road network from partner states towards South Sudan. The standard gauge Railway project that was commissioned on October 8, 2014 will also take a shorter period to accomplish than otherwise expected.It’s also important to note that our region has largely experienced security challenges resulting mainly from the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) and others that have been using South Sudan as their base to train and later attack and destabilize Uganda. I pray that the Democratic Republic of Congo also gets adopted into the EAC together with Somalia, Eritrea and Ethiopia so that we can jointly galvanise our regional security and form a strong, equipped and motivated force to defend our region.

During his first media briefing at his country home in Rwakitura after his re-election, President Yoweri Museveni emphasized the need for East Africans to form an “East African Centre of Gravity” and ultimately the same pursuit should be for the African Continent.

President Paul Kagame of Rwanda also expresses the need for advancing a market driven integration for our states as this will better the lives of the Wananchi. Col. Muammar Gaddafi (RIP) of Libya once said that, “The political elite of our continent lack political awareness and political determination. The World is changing into 7 or 10 countries, and we are not even aware of it”

Here, the WILL and ATTITUDE of our leaders as well as other stake holders in the integration process needs to change.

The integration should be a people centered process and this is exactly what the protocol for the establishment of the EAC establishes. This however is still a great challenge as most citizens in the region are not aware of what is happening in this regard.

Our leaders and all stakeholders should design programmes to reach out to the ordinary people and preach the integration message to them so that it becomes popular within all communities.

It should also be noted that as we admit South Sudan into the EAC, we need to be mindful of how to survive in a competitive world, how to guarantee our prosperity by buying from each other and how to be secure in a modern world that we live in today.

Therefore, the existing challenge of lack of a TRUE WILL to fully embrace the EAC integration by some partner states MUST change. It’s high time we got real and stop having ideas stuck on paper if our DREAM is to be attained.

The East African Community integration is real. No amount of doubt, negativity or fear shall stop it. Let’s embrace this process and harvest the low hanging fruits of the integration.

Karibu South Sudan to the EAC.

Mungu ibariki Jumuiya ya Afrika Mashariki – God bless the East African Community.

The writer is the chief executive of the Afrika Mashariki Fest and Tendo Grill Ltd

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