Why South Sudan could be suspended from EAC

Why South Sudan could be suspended from EAC
A session at EALA Parliament.

South Sudan has failed to meet financial commitments to the East African Community (EAC) thereby contravening provisions of the very treaty she signed when she joined the Community in 2016.

These shocking details came to the fore on Tuesday, when MPs in the East African Legislative Assembly (EALA) met with the SPLM’s Interim Secretary-General, Peter Lam Both, to provide an update on the impact of South Sudan’s MP presence in the EALA.

South Sudan has been a member of the EAC for five years and the country continues to grapple with unpaid membership arrears.

“South Sudan has not paid its membership for four years, amounting to a whopping $39 million,” said Dr Ann Itto, the Chair South Sudan Chapter of EALA.

She said the failure to pay up its membership fees put the country’s representatives in a ‘sticky’ position, but a look at the provisions in the EAC Treaty points to a direr situation South Sudan has placed herself in.

According to Article 146 of the EAC Treaty, the Summit, consisting of the Heads of State or Government of the partner states, ‘‘[the bloc] may suspend a Partner State from taking part in the activities of the Community if the country fails to observe and fulfil the fundamental principles and objectives of the Treaty including failure to meet financial commitments to the Community within a period of eighteen (18) months.’’

The treaty adds that a ‘‘partner state suspended shall cease to enjoy the benefits provided for under the Treaty but shall continue to be bound by membership obligations until the suspension is lifted.’’

Article 47 empowers the same Summit such that it can expel a Partner State from the Community for gross and persistent violation of the principles and objectives of the Treaty after giving such Partner State twelve months’ written notice.

Dr Ann Itto said it is important that South Sudan takes the payment of membership fees more seriously. “We should take our membership seriously, pay our membership fee and most importantly be there,” she said.

Dr. Ann Itto told journalists that South Sudan stands a big chance of gaining more from its membership in the EALA.

“Most of the members of the EAC were working very closely with the SPLM during the liberation struggle. They contributed to bringing us to where we are and there is no other better place for us to be rather than with our brothers and sisters who were supporting us during the liberation struggles,” she said.

“We are a landlocked country and anytime a conflict comes, we will need a friend so being a member of the EAC means we can now connect to the sea and get our goods cheaply through the common customs, common market, and the monetary union.”

She however acknowledged that South Sudan’s participation in the EALA legislative processes has been weak.

Without directly mentioning whether the current representatives of South Sudan to the EAC would like to go for another term, Dr Ann Itto revealed that she understands that there are many youth, women, and other individuals who would like to join the EALA.

She however noted that “We understand the ins and outs and will be happy if we are given that honor to represent our country.

“Our people should be there to make sure that we contribute to the decisions that are taken in the EAC, that would move us and that would help us make a better deal.”

The MPs have been there for five years ending the first term of office in the EALA as per the treaty of the EAC, and have one more term to serve.

But article 146 of the EAC states that the summit may suspend a partner State from taking part in any activities of the community if the state fails to observe and fulfil the fundamental principles and objectives of the Treaty including failure to meet financial commitments to the community within a period of eighteen 18 months

Article 146 also states that suspended partner state shall cease to enjoy the benefits provided for under the treaty but shall continue to be bound by membership obligations until the suspension is lifted

The MPs’ admission that “when we were nominated and elected by the parliament, we didn’t know much about the EAC,” said Dr. Itto, was a crucial focus of their update. 

“All we knew was that it is an intergovernmental organization that was made up of members who agreed to cooperate in the areas of social, economic, political, defence, security, and technology. We didn’t know what was going on. It took us time to learn what was going on.”

After five years, we realize that the government made a very good decision to join the EAC because there are very many benefits.

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