Somalia, a country in the Horn of Africa, recently renewed its bid to join the East African Community (EAC), a seven-nation intergovernmental bloc it has sought to join for more than 50 years.
The bloc rejected Somalia’s candidacy more than a decade ago, in March 2012, citing sporadic conflict and weak institutions, but with the admission of an equally troubled South Sudan in 2016, Mogadishu has now great hopes.
More than half a century ago, attempts to bring Somalia into the EAC when the group was founded in 1967 failed, as at the time it was campaigning for a ‘Greater Somalia’ and making territorial claims to its neighbours.
He was looking for both the North Eastern Province of Kenya and the Ogaden Province of Ethiopia to join his territory.
Currently, the EAC is made up of Uganda, Kenya, Tanzania, Rwanda, Burundi, South Sudan and Congo.
In 2017, Somalia again applied to join the EAC, but faced resistance from Kenya and Tanzania, due to security concerns.
Somalia and Kenya, which share a long border, have as many differences as they have characteristics in common, as well as outbreaks and good relations.
They share similar populations, businesses, and exchanges.
But Kenya has faced countless terror attacks from the al-Shabaab terror group across the Somali border. The two countries also have a dispute over maritime territorial waters before the International Court of Justice.
Experts say public opinion in Tanzania, which lies southeast of the two countries, is more skeptical than that in Kenya about Somalia joining the EAC.
“It seems contradictory that Tanzania accepted an expansion of the EAC in South Sudan but not in Somalia, probably because Juba has large oil reserves,” political analyst at Anadolu Kibuuka Muhammad told the agency. Kampala International University.
Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni, however, said Somalia has all the necessary qualifications to join the EAC, including sharing a border with one of the other EAC member states and being a democratic country with an economy run by the private sector. He pledged earlier this month to support Somalia’s bid to join the EAC.
Uganda has contributed to relative stability in Somalia since 2007, although the volume of trade between the two countries remains low.
Somalia, which as Africa’s second longest coastline and the continent’s most easterly point at Cape Ras-Hafun, is not as dependent on neighboring countries for imports as landlocked South Sudan.
Turkey, China, India, Oman and Kenya are Somalia’s main sources of imports, while Oman is its main export market.
Landlocked South Sudan imports heavily from neighboring EAC countries, with Uganda and Kenya being the main sources.
Rebecca Kadaga, Uganda’s minister for East African Community Affairs, told Anadolu Agency that Somalia is doing business with EAC member states, which lays the groundwork for its candidacy for join the intergovernmental bloc.
She said if the bloc verifies that Somalia has met the membership requirements, it will definitely be allowed to join.
Overcome the obstacles
Anisa Osman Dirie, a Somali-born African Union administrator, said Somalia should overcome its obstacles to join the EAC, calling for unity, peace and friendly coexistence, adding that Mogadishu should lead regional bodies.
“Somalia has no shortage of internationally recognized scholarly intellectuals who could lead these regional and international bodies. Their knowledge and experience is abundantly available,” she said.
“The Missing Bridge is a coordinated strategy to create that awareness. Certainly, the collapse of the political system in Somalia has stunned the world, but that does not mean that viable patriotic visionary leaders do not exist. They exist in abundance, but most of them are victims of the problem that they did not create.
She continued, “There is therefore a need for anyone who wants Somalia to emerge from the current instability to support its access to membership and leadership of the EAC, as well as other intergovernmental organizations like the Intergovernmental Authority. for Development (IGAD), the UN and the African Union or different commissions, (because) that would set the agenda for the struggle to build the Somali state.
Amina Hersi, a Somali businesswoman who runs several businesses in Uganda, told Anadolu Agency that EAC membership reduces the cost of doing business, offers a huge market that all member states can tap into and helps to the integration and growth of economies.
Under the 1999 EAC treaty, if Somalia joined the bloc, the country would enjoy visa-free entry to EAC countries and be eligible for East African passports, as well as tax-free access to EAC markets.
The combined annual economy of the EAC is estimated at over $300 billion, with the number of people living in member states at 312 million, who travel with a single passport.
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