Talks aimed at admitting Somalia into the East Africa Community are at an advanced stage.
If the negations go through, it will set ground for Somalia to become the latest member state of the East African Community (EAC), almost eleven years after Mogadishu first applied for membership.
Sources said the talks have made a critical step to the negotiations stage paving way for recommendations that will see Somalia become the eight member of the bloc after Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) that formally joined in April 2022.
The negotiations which begun Tuesday last week are coming to an end on September 5, 2023.
A senior official told The Standard that at the end of the negotiations, there will result in a report that will be presented to the EAC Council of Ministers.
The Ministers will then consider the report and make recommendations to the Summit of EAC Heads of State.
“The decision to admit a new country into the Community is a prerogative of the Summit and not the Council of Ministers or the negotiations team,” the official said.
The EAC secretariat, the East African Legislative Assembly, the East African Court of Justice, and their counterparts from the Federal Republic of Somalia are represented in the talks.
According to East African Community, ASALs and Regional Development Cabinet Secretary Rebecca Miano said the negotiations are being held in accordance with a directive by the 22nd Extraordinary Summit.
The negotiations focus on political, legal and institutions, infrastructure, productive and social sectors and economic and trade affairs.
“A big and expanded market that the admission of Somalia will usher in will be a major boost for the private sector, itself a great milestone in the integration process,” said Miano.
Somalia applied to join the community in 2012 but members declined because of war and disorder in the Horn of Africa country that had weak institutions.
A verification mission was later launched by EAC on January 25, 2023 to assess Somalia’s readiness.
Countries can only become members of the bloc upon meeting certain conditions set out in the 1999 Treaty for the Establishment of the East African Community.
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They include respect for universal principles of good governance, democracy, rule of law, respect for human rights and other civil liberties.
Somalia shares a border with Kenya to the East. The country also has strong historical, linguistic, economic and socio-cultural links with all the EAC Partner States.
One of the first requirements for a country to be admitted into the EAC is to share a borderline with at least one-member state. Further, for a country to be admitted into a bloc, it must have strong democratic institutions.
The move to admit Somalia will boost the EAC’s geographical reach, enhance Somalia’s efforts to improve its multilateral and fiscal standing and the exploitation of the country’s blue economy.
Early this year, a team from the seven-nation bloc comprising Kenya, DRC, Tanzania, Burundi, Rwanda, South Sudan, and Uganda travelled to Somalia to assess the country’s level of preparedness.
The team later reviewed Somalia’s institutional and legal frameworks, its policies, strategies, and programmes and its areas of cooperation with the EAC.
EAC Secretary General Peter Mathuki said by joining the community, Somalia will benefit from the bloc’s regional infrastructure projects such as roads, railways, and energy networks.
“These projects aim to improve connectivity, enhance transportation links, and boost regional trade, ultimately supporting Somalia's economic development and integration,” he stated.