MOGADISHU – The insecurity and instability in Somalia might be a handle in its bid to join the East African Community bloc.
The EAC on Wednesday officially launched the verification mission to assess the Somalia’s readiness to join the regional economic bloc.
Through a statement, EAC said the verification team comprising of experts from the member states shall be in Somalia from January 25 to February 3, 2023, to establish the country’s level of conformity with the criteria for admitting foreign countries as provided in the EAC Treaty.
Among the issues that the team will look at according to the EAC treaty include acceptance of the Community as set out in the Treaty; adherence to universally acceptable principles of good governance, democracy, the rule of law, observance of human rights and social justice; potential contribution to the strengthening of integration within the East African region, and; geographical proximity to and inter-dependence between it (the foreign country) and the EAC partner states.
Others are the establishment and maintenance of a market-driven economy; and; social and economic policies being compatible with those of the Community.
While the Horn of Africa country had made huge strides in restoring law and order through its political process, it still faces instability, especially with the terror threat from Al Shabaab.
The instability has an impact on principles of good governance, democracy, rule of law, human rights and social justice.
EAC Secretary General Dr Peter Mathuki said the verification will be finalized and a report completed in time in readiness for presentation to the EAC Council of Ministers.
Consequently, the Council of Ministers will table its report for consideration by the 23rd Summit of EAC Heads of State scheduled for the end of February 2023.
“The verification team is set to make findings relating to the institutional frameworks in place; legal frameworks; policies, strategies, projects and programmes; areas of cooperation with other EAC partner states and expectations from membership,” Mathuki said.
If considered, Somalia will be the eighth member to join the EAC after the DRC in July 2022.
The verification team will assess Somalia’s development strategies and plans in key areas of collaboration, including infrastructure, energy, education and science, peace and security, and international cooperation, all of which it faces challenges after more than 30 years of instability.
However, on the positive, Mathuki observed that Somalia has the longest national coastline of over 3,000 kms in Africa, linking Africa to the Arabian Peninsula, which the region will tap into to increase intra-regional trade.
Somalia shares borders with one EAC member state – Kenya.
The team will also review the status of Somalia in international law and establish the country’s readiness to join the EAC Customs Union, Common Market Protocol, Monetary Union and ongoing political confederation Constitutional Framework.
Somalia’s Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation Abshir Omar said the country will benefit greatly because of the free movement of people from Somalia and other countries without a visa, if they are admitted to the EAC.
“Somalis are already present in the East African region. The Somalis started integrating with their brothers and sisters of the region way before the request of formalizing the decision of joining the EAC,” he said.
Special Envoy of the President of Somalia to the EAC Abdulsalam Omer communicated President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud’s appeal calling on EAC to expedite the process of admission, so that Somalia can be the eighth member.
“Somalia will benefit significantly through the increased movement of goods, services and people across the bloc in addition to expanding intra-regional trade. Further, the exploitation of Somalia’s blue economy resources such as fish will boost the regional economy,” he said.
The EAC verification mission is being chaired by Tiri Marie Rose from Burundi.
Somalia applied to join the EAC in 2012 and since then, the matter has been pending due to various reasons.
The 22nd Ordinary Summit of the EAC Heads of State observed that the verification had not been undertaken and directed the Council to expeditiously fast-track the exercise in accordance with the EAC Procedures for admission of New Members into the EAC and report to the 23rd Ordinary Meeting of the Summit.