New passports, fresh headache for South Sudan

New passports, fresh headache for South Sudan
A copy of South Sudan Passport

The government of South Sudan will ask for an extended timeline to comply with the adoption of common East African Community (EAC) passports.

Each of the seven EAC Members states has until November 30, 2022, to comply, according to a resolution by the EAC Council of Ministers reached last April.

The 41st ordinary meeting held in Arusha, Tanzania, set the deadline for the member states to phase out the old-generation passports and adopt the new documents.

The decision meant that South Sudan, and other EAC countries such as Uganda, Kenya, Tanzania, Burundi, Rwanda, and the Democratic Republic of the Congo, should have embraced the use of bloc passports when traveling within the region by November 2022.

However, in an exclusive interview with The City Review yesterday, the Chairperson of the Specialized Committee on East African Affairs and Regional Integration at the Revitalised Transitional National Legislative Assembly (R-TNLA), Eche Likai Barri, said the country lacks the required infrastructure to meet the deadline.

Needs more time

Barri said the only option for the country was to push for the extension of the deadline to enable the Juba administration to acquire the needed system for the issuance of passports to its citizens.

“The EAC passport issue is a very contentious one. “As you know, this month is the deadline… …to be able to issue the EAC passport, but South Sudan has been facing challenges in regard to the required infrastructure required for the issuance of the passports,” Barri lamented.

“We have to push for it to be moved because now the conditions are not right for South Sudan to meet that deadline.”

‘‘The issue of finance is also a very big challenge, and I believe our members in EALA will have to push for the extension of the issuance of EAC passports,” he added.

In 2018 and 2021, the East Africa Legislative Assembly (EALA) allocated $2 million twice to South Sudan to procure the needed system for the issuance of a passport, but the funds were not claimed.

According to Barri, South Sudan could not claim the funds due to unsettled obligations by then, and “This money went back and it cannot be accessed anymore.”

He added, “The conditions back then were not favourable for us to pursue this money, which had been earmarked by the EALA, but I believe we have the competency and we are committed to implementing this as a government with our own resources.”

EAC passport is one of the member states’ requirements prescribed by law for each country to provide and own the new machines for the issuance, protection, and secure storage of passport data.

It remained unclear whether South Sudan could procure the needed machine due to the current financial crisis.

However, Barri said, “The only option South Sudan is left with is for the parliament to talk to the ministry of interior to bring a supplementary budget for the fund to be raised so that we can purchase the system because the issuance of the passports is contingent to the partner state owning this machine.”

“I think our circumstance is understandable to the region, but it is something that the government is determined to do as a country because it is one of the requisites for being a member of the East Africa Community.”

Kenya endorsed the deadline and reiterated that its old passports would not be valid within the region effective November 30.

Earlier, Uganda had set April 2021, as a deadline for phasing out its old machine-readable passports in favour of e-passports except for Ugandans returning abroad.