Shipping & Logistics

Was South Sudan ripe for joining the EAC club?

Foreign affairs CS Monica Juma. file photo | nmg
Foreign affairs CS Monica Juma. file photo | nmg 

Last week, the government went back to the thorny South Sudan question in a profound way.

Foreign Affairs ministry issued travel advisory on February 21, urging caution among Kenyans living in or intending to travel to the oil-rich parts of the landlocked state.

The affected areas include Greater Upper Nile, particularly the states of Bieh, Latjoor, Akobo, Jonglei, Northern Liech and parts of Maiwut, Eastern Nile, Boma and Yei River.

The advisory follows the marathon negotiation that led to the February 20 release of two Kenyan pilots held captive by South Sudanese rebels after their aircraft crash-landed in January.

Was the raging conflict unforeseen? No. The advisory comes as an afterthought. It follows a series of missteps that that led to South Sudan being accepted into the community of East African states ahead of its time.

In fact, Kenya — and its EAC neighbours — ought to have apologised to the many businesspeople who have found themselves in the trap because they thought the bloc’s organs had properly vetted South Sudan for investments.

The admission into the EAC bloc was a controversial one.

It came as Kenyan clearing and forwarding agents were contesting Juba’s decision to appoint Panda Clearing and Forwarding Company as sole agent for homebound imports.

Kenyan agents saw in the decision an attempt to deny them business in a shared customs territory but it also betrayed Juba’s inability manage its revenues in a shared customs territory.

At the time of negotiating Juba’s admission, President Uhuru Kenyatta chaired the EAC Heads of State Summit.

Article Three of EAC Treaty permits admission of States if deemed to have compatible social and economic policies with the bloc. Such States are supposed to demonstrate progress in building a market-driven economy, ability to strengthen region’s economy, geographical proximity and interdependence of the bloc.

Most important, the said Article says only applicant which prove adherence to universally acceptable principles of good governance, democracy, rule of law, respect for human rights and social justice can become EAC members.