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Somalia Joining EAC: A Win for Both Parties?

Dealing with militant groups is very crucial for the government of President Mohamud, and having long-lasting peace is what people in Somalia have been dreaming of for ages.

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In six months, Somalia will be fully part of the East African Community (EAC) following its signing of the Treaty of Accession in the Ugandan State House on December 15, 2023. 

Somalia’s President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud and the bloc’s Secretary General, Dr Peter Mathuki, signed the treaty, which was witnessed by President Salva Kiir of South Sudan, who is the chairperson of the Heads of State Summit, and Uganda’s Yoweri Museveni. 

The decision to integrate Somalia was made after an ordinary meeting of the Heads of State of the EAC in Arusha on November 24, 2023, who directed the Council of Ministers to develop a roadmap for the integration of Somalia into the Community and report progress to the next meeting of the Summit. 

After a decade of intense negotiation, the country was finally admitted to join the Arusha-based EAC. With over 17 million people, Somalia has a long history of conflict with armed groups like the renowned Al-Shabaab and has hopes of getting help from the bloc. 

This is the reason behind the tense effort by Mogadishu to acquire membership. Dealing with militant groups is very crucial for the government of President Mohamud, and having long-lasting peace is what people in Somalia have been dreaming of for ages.

READ MORE: Peace Talks Between Ethiopia, Oromo Rebels in Tanzania Collapse – Again

Unlike other regional blocs, the EAC was initially established primarily for regional cooperation focused on trade and economic growth. However, in recent times, it has expanded its involvement in political matters. 

Peace-keeping

For instance, it has deployed peacekeepers to the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), a newly admitted member, to maintain peace and address the challenge posed by over 120 militant groups engaged in conflict with government forces. 

If Somalia succeeds in bringing over documents for membership ratification, as the order says, the peacekeepers will be sent there too or any other effort to keep peace. 

One can understand why the bloc took such a move to engage itself in politics and peacekeeping; peace catalyses smooth trading and economic activities.

Somalia has potential economically; agriculture and livestock keeping are the major backbones of its economy. Nevertheless, extreme weather conditions—in this case, long seasons of drought plus unpatterned rainfall, make this potential difficult to realise.

READ MORE: EAC-EU Develop Joint Roadmap to Foster Digital Transformation in East Africa

Eventually, this makes the economy more fragile due to low production. On the other hand, the bloc is very determined to harness the opportunities that come along with the joining of Somalia, including boasting the coastline of the Indian Ocean to over 1,800

miles, which will enable the EAC to have access to the Arab Peninsula.

That’s good news, economically. Furthermore, in countries like Tanzania and Kenya, the economic powerhouses of the bloc and other members will have more opportunities in the expanded market of over 300 million people, or 4th of Africa’s population.

Peace matters

Again, prevailing peace and stability are important not only for Somalia but for the regional bloc, too. Given the terrorist attacks in neighbouring Kenya, the only one in the region sharing a border with Somalia, several attacks are affiliated with groups in Somalia. 

Having them in the country will stabilise the whole security system, as there will be joint efforts to combat instability and build peace. Besides the success that is anticipated to come with the joining of Somalia to the bloc, there are some challenges to be said to come after, too.

Due to the prolonged conflict in Somalia, the region will face some challenges in ensuring the stability and safety of the entire region, and some extra force will be applied that will incur further costs. 

READ MORE: Tanzanian Peacekeepers Repatriated From CAR Following Sexual Abuse Allegations

However, trade and economic disparities are likely to rise as a challenge; some countries have many resources, like the DRC, and others have fewer. Somalia stands for the latter. Additionally, given the unending conflict with extremist groups, Somalia has little to add to the bloc’s economic value as a trade partner.

The Arusha-based organisation has a long and interesting history, with several breakups and reestablishments. The renowned one came into force in 1967 and lasted for a decade before its dissolution in 1977.

Twenty years later, negotiations for a reviving beginning began, involving Kenya, Tanzania, and Uganda, the original members before desolation in 1977. 

After long negotiations, almost three years later, in July 2000, the new EAC came into force, and Arusha remained the bloc’s capital, and it was for the first one, too, just before dissolution. 

Initially, the region had three members; economic and trade integration was its founding, but other countries later showed interest, and the number was raised to seven, including Rwanda, Burundi, South Sudan, and the DRC, and hopefully eight in 2024 after the complete joining of Somalia. 

READ MORE: EAC Membership Is No Panacea for DRC’s Problems

Additionally, the course has changed; now, it has to deal with politics to sustain peace and stability. Either way, the bloc is still crucial for the prosperity of the economy and the stability of politics in Africa and the international community. 

Increasing integration by speeding the process of adopting a common currency, promoting a more unified regional market, massive regional investment in infrastructure, and linking between member states will ease people’s and goods’ mobility. 

Moreover, peace and security are very sensitive issues; some member states are yet to maintain political stability, which substantially hinders the region’s development. Unified efforts to deal with challenges are crucial for the prosperity of the bloc.

Sigyfrid Masawe is an international relations analyst in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania. He’s available at sigychrs@gmail.com. The opinions expressed here are the writer’s own and do not necessarily reflect those of The Chanzo. If you are interested in publishing in this space, please contact our editors at editor@thechanzo.com

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