FROM: Editorial, The East African, Sat, FEB/14/205, SSN;
When regional leaders meet in Nairobi next week for their delayed EAC Heads of State Summit, one issue expected to come up for debate is South Sudan’s application to join the regional bloc.
Although the country does not meet the minimum conditions for membership, officials are expected to ask for a waiver on the basis that being part of the EAC will accelerate improvement in the required parameters.
“We always argue with our sisters and brothers in the EAC over why they want to wait for South Sudan to reach the level they want and yet these standards can be achieved when we are inside. It is possible to admit us so that other members can shape us in the way they want us to conduct ourselves,” says Barnabas Marial Benjamin, South Sudan Minister for Foreign Affairs and International Co-operation.
The EAC Summit should postpone a decision on the application. While this newspaper has empathy for the people of South Sudan, we do not believe that the leaders on both sides of the conflict that started in December 2013 have done enough to end the fighting.
The 1999 EAC Treaty sets out conditions for membership, including adherence to universally acceptable principles of good governance, democracy, rule of law, observance of human rights and social justice.
None of the EAC member states can be said to offer a perfect model of any of these qualities. In fact, many will argue that none of the member states fully adheres to universally acceptable principles in any of those areas. However, the civil conflict in South Sudan, which is a self-inflicted wound on the people of that country and on the conscience of humanity, cannot be simply brushed aside as growing pains.
The conflict, which is primarily a contest between warring factions of the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement, is neither about ideology nor fundamental differences, but simply about power and patronage. SPLM is a remarkable organisation that successfully resisted the tyranny of Khartoum to create a secure homeland for the people of South Sudan.
Having shown its military mettle, the SPLM must now prove that it is capable of governing and of being accountable to its people before it can be fully embraced by the region.
South Sudan’s first application to join the EAC, in December 2012, was rejected because of the risk of renewed war with Khartoum, the failure to hold democratic elections and the lack of a culture of democracy.
Since then the country has gone backwards, not forward, on building an inclusive state and an accountable government. To allow it into the EAC in spite of that fact is to celebrate impunity and undermine good governance.
The region has a long history of reaching out to support the people of South Sudan, but the country’s leaders must resolve their political differences and stop the fighting before they are let into the bloc.
Those who come into the EAC may not have the cleanest of hands but they surely shouldn’t come with hands dripping with the blood of their own citizens. END