How Somalia will benefit on East African Community high table

Somalia, a war-torn country in the horn of Africa has achieved it is long desire of enjoying the company of the East African neighbours in the form of the regional economic bloc, the East African Community (EAC).

The Thursday November 23 admission at the EAC summit in Arusha, Tanzania made Somalia become the official 8th partner State. The development comes a year after the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) became the 7th partner state of the EAC.

DRC’s welcome package was the seconding of the EAC joint force to pacify the eastern part of the country and this has led to the silencing of the gun at least on the side of the M23 rebels that have been fighting to topple President Felix Tshisekedi’s administration.

If the EAC is to achieve the long craved political federation, peace and tranquillity needs to be achieved first in all the partner States.

Somalia, a country that has not seen peace since the early 1990s has to shake off the al Shaab terrorist group’s trouble while South Sudan needs to end the ever-recurring gun violence, and, the eastern DRC has to be got rid of foreign and domestic negative forces.  Burundi, Kenya, Tanzania and Rwanda look the freest countries in as far as any kind of gun violence while Uganda is seriously dealing with the Allied Democratic Forces (ADF) terrorist group which continues to pose a threat from DRC jungles.

The admission of Somalia into the EAC will increase the regional market and will benefit from the regional protocol on free movement of persons and goods. It will be easy for trade between Somalia and other EAC partner states without any form of barriers.

Benefits

One year after the DRC was admitted to the EAC, there have been a lot of achievements that include the removal of visa requirements for the Congolese to travel to any of the countries in the region.

Somalia unlike the DRC, is coastal country with several ports on the shores of the Indian ocean which would be to the advantage of the region with more export and import routes. There is chance that the country would benefit from the infrastructure development master plan of the EAC.

Uganda has played the big brother role in the area of peace keeping when neighbours are threatened, a case in point being South Sudan and Somalia. Uganda, under President Yoweri Museveni remains the only country in Africa that has consistently sent troops to Somalia to thwart the terrorist threat by the al-Shaab.

But other countries may more easily come to the aid of a sister country since Somalia is now a member of the EAC. Like forces have been mobilized for DRC to maintain peace in the eastern parts where a cease fire with M23 rebels is in place, a similar action can be taken for Somalia.

The horn of African country will have a chance to be part of the legislative agenda of the EAC economic block by electing nine representatives to the East African Legislative Assembly (EALA) whose chambers are in Arusha. Economically, the country will earn foreign exchange when the EALA plenary rotation hits Mogadishu as it has been the practice that a whole meeting of the regional parliament is conducted in one of the partner states’ capital.

The EAC Court of Justice is also another institution of the bloc that Somalis will be running to in case there are issues that need a regional judicial attention. The Court sitting in Arusha was established to contribute to regional integration by ensuring adherence to justice, rule of law and fundamental rights and freedoms. Partner states also contribute to the bench by seconding Justices already experienced in the local judicial system to the regional Court, an opportunity that has fallen on Somali judiciary.

There has always been debate on the distribution of jobs at the EAC secretariat. Though the jobs must be given on merit, partner state quotas are necessary. Somalis will be recruited to work at the secretariat while the free movement of goods and persons protocol advantages Somalis to get employed anywhere in the region.

For the countries that have been in EAC longer, the protocol on common market is doing well as there have been established one-stop border points. These facilities have been manned by customs and immigration officials of neighbouring countries sitting adjacent to each other to process the movement of cargo and persons. Somalia which shares a border with Kenya is expected to benefit from this arrangement.

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