Discussions on Somalia’s application to join the East African Community (EAC) are set to begin tomorrow as high-level officials from Somalia prepare to meet senior officials of the EAC in Arusha.
The talks, scheduled to take place at the Kenya School of Government on the outskirts of Nairobi, aim to address critical issues in the application process.
Since 2013, the Federal Republic of Somalia, despite facing significant security challenges, has expressed a strong desire to become a member of the seven-nation bloc. However, the application has faced delays, largely attributed to the ongoing security situation in the Horn of Africa.
EAC Secretary-General Peter Mathuki announced last week that Somalia has taken a significant step toward becoming the eighth member of the bloc. He confirmed that negotiations between the EAC and Somalia would commence on August 22, expressing optimism about Somalia’s potential membership.
The current member countries of the EAC are Tanzania, Uganda, Kenya, Burundi, Rwanda, South Sudan, and the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC). South Sudan and the DRC joined the bloc in 2016 and 2022, respectively, while Somalia applied for membership in 2012.
Dr. Mathuki has consistently expressed confidence that the negotiations will pave the way for Somalia’s accession to the expanding bloc. He highlighted positive indications of Somalia’s readiness for membership following a verification mission conducted earlier in 2023. The mission’s report was deliberated upon and shared with all partner states, with officials from the EAC visiting Mogadishu to assess Somalia’s readiness.
Somalia’s application to join the EAC was initially submitted in 2012, and a verification mission was launched by the EAC on January 25, 2023, to assess the country’s readiness. The verification team’s report, adopted by the EAC Heads of State in June, led to the Council of Ministers being tasked with initiating negotiations with Mogadishu.
Dr. Abdusalam Omer, Somalia’s former Foreign Affairs Minister and current Presidential Special Envoy to the East African Community, expressed optimism about the upcoming talks. He emphasized that the negotiations would cover all aspects of EAC integration, including aligning Somalia’s laws with regional standards.
“The way forward for Africa and East Africa is regional integration and opening up markets, as this will help lower the cost of products. Integration is the nemesis of the new type of terrorism, and, with regional integration and cooperation, terrorism will be defeated,” said Dr. Omer.
The EAC integration is based on four pillars: the Customs Union, the Common Market Protocol, the Monetary Union, and the Political Federation. Currently, only the Customs Union and Common Market protocols have been fully operationalized, starting in 2005 and 2010, respectively.
Somalia shares a border with Kenya and boasts the longest national coastline in Africa, spanning over 3,000 kilometers and connecting Africa to the Arabian Peninsula. Dr. Omer emphasized the benefits of Somalia’s connectivity to the Middle East, highlighting the potential gains for both Somalia and the region.
Negotiations between Somalia and the EAC will result in a negotiation report from the EAC Secretariat, which will be submitted to the Council of Ministers for consideration. The Council of Ministers, as the authoritative body of the EAC, will then present the report to the Heads of State Summit later this year. The Summit is expected to adopt the report and make a political declaration, officially admitting Somalia as the eighth member state of the East African Community. Following the admission, Somalia will proceed with signing the treaty of accession and depositing the instruments of ratification with the EAC Secretariat.