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عربي

South Sudan debates: join East Africans or stand alone?

O. Hannington
South Sudan has applied to join the East African Community. But some South Sudanese are concerned that if the move comes too soon, the country could be irrevocably damaged.
25.06.2012  |  Kampala
East African traders offloading their goods in Juba.
East African traders offloading their goods in Juba.

The East African Community is a regional organisation of five nations with a common market for goods, labour and capital and plans to eventually establish a common currency. And South Sudan applied to join this community around a year ago. Various preconditions are required for membership and South Sudan’s bid is currently being considered.

We need to unite for strength.”
Monica Akech
However there is still a lot of controversy around South Sudan’s potential membership of the East African Community (EAC), currently made up of Burundi, Kenya, Rwanda, Tanzania, and Uganda. Firstly there are the requirements that South Sudan must fulfil before membership can be approved.  

These include good governance, democracy, the rule of law, observance of human rights and social justice; proximity to partner states, a market driven economy and social and economic policies being compatible with those of the rest of the EAC. South Sudan must also resolve its ongoing border disputes with neighbouring Sudan.

This means our country will lose since it has nothing to offer to the common market yet.”
Peter Lasu Ladu
Then secondly, there are local opinions, which differ. While there are clear signs of consensus among South Sudanese citizens about the need to join the bigger family of nations, there seem to be disagreements about how much time is needed to prepare for this.

We need to unite for strength,” says Monica Akech, an arts graduate who studied in Uganda, and who thinks South Sudan should join the EAC. Akech believes that if the regional bloc unites and becomes stronger, it will help the region in every aspect.

South Sudan will grow much faster if it joins the EAC, Akech believes, than if it chooses to stand alone.

Economics may also play a role. The other member states are already economically stable,” says Peter Lasu Ladu, chairman of the Juba Civic Engagement Centre, which works together with a variety of civil society organisations. This means our country will lose since it has nothing to offer to the common market yet.”

These people are probably going to take all the jobs since most of them are educated already.”
Jalan Alex
Jalan Alex, a South Sudanese student who completed secondary school in Uganda is worried that South Sudan wouldn’t have equal opportunities in the EAC. He thinks that because of the lack of qualifications in South Sudan, other countries’ nationals will enter South Sudan and take the best jobs.

These people are probably going to take all the jobs since most of them are educated already,” Alex says. He believes South Sudan should wait until it has caught up with the other EAC member states in terms of education and economics.

We need another ten years before we should start thinking about joining the Community,” Alex concludes.