By Roger Alfred Yoron
Despite calls for expulsion from the East African Community EAC which it has just joined, ambulance http://chat.novaintermed.ro/wp-content/plugins/jetpack/_inc/header.php the government of South Sudan says amending its laws to confirm with the Treaty and protocols of the block will take a maximum of three years as agreed.
South Sudan’s presidential adviser on economic affairs and envoy to the block, hospital Aggrey Tisa Sabuni said in an exclusive interview with ChimpReports that currently work is ongoing and the ground is being prepared for review of the laws of the youngest Nation to confirm to the protocols on Customs Union, Common Market and relevant laws of the EAC.
“That process, we believe, will take not less than three years. If it can be done in one year, in two years or even in three years, so be it. The moment we are done, we will simply notify them [the EAC]. In fact, they would want us to do it earlier, rather than later on, but we negotiated for a period of three years because we know that internally, we do not have the capacity to do these things so fast,” Tisa said.
“Even those that we committed to implement within three years, if by the time the three years are running out and we discover that we are unable to fulfill that, we will notify them ahead of time. By that time, we will now know how much time will require: is it another six months? Is it another one year? We will apply.”
“On the other hand, if we comply, if we complete those preparations ahead of time, so much the better. We will benefit, they will also benefit.”
The reforms for conformity with the Treaty, the Customs Union and Common Market protocols will see South Sudan amending its Passports and Immigration Act, Investment Promotion Act, Companies Act, among others, so as to implement the common rules and standards governing cross-border transactions, free movements of goods, labor and formalize free movements of capital in line with the laws of the EAC.
South Sudan became an official member of the EAC in September this year after depositing instruments of ratification with the secretary general of the block.
It was admitted by the heads of states of the Community during a summit held in March, 2016 in Arusha, Tanzania, five years after it applied to join the block.
However, the current instability in South Sudan has sparked outcries, with some Kenyan members of parliament last week announcing an intention to introduce a bill seeking expulsion of the young Nation from the block.
Back home also there has been mixed reactions with some saying South Sudan stands to benefit while many maintain that the Country should have waited or that there has not been enough public sensitization regarding joining the Community.
Others, including the opposition Democratic Change Party described joining the block a “rush” and urged the government to instead focus on restoring peace and stability.
The uncertainty that remains is whether or not with the current setup of South Sudan government amending the laws will not face stiff opposition.
Dr. James Okuk, a political analyst and lecturer at the University of Juba in an interview with ChimpReports argues that the agreed three years for amending the necessary laws to meet obligations at the EAC is no more ideal because of the current instability in South Sudan.
“The three years would have been an ideal time had we not got ourselves into the current crises of the conflict, insecurity and refuge and all these. Unless peace comes back to the country, then you can think that we can meet this dateline. But if the situation continues the way it is now, with resumption of rebellion, the whole region will run away from us.
“So, I don’t think we will catch up with them. Three years may just pass without any tangible improvement or amendment of our laws toward what should fit or meet the requirement of East Africa,” said Okuk who described South Sudan’s joining of the block a “rush” which up to now “has not solved the problem.”
Opposition, a shaky membership and calls for expulsion
According to analyst Okuk, amending South Sudan laws to confirm to the EAC laws will not be easy if a powerful parliament is established in the Country.
“Even if we restore the peacefulness which is required and then a proper TGoNU [transitional government of national unity] is put in place, with the parliament that can check the executive, amending the laws are not going to pass so easily.
“It is going to be tough because there will be a big number and a big number that are been opposing a hurry to join East Africa are still there in the parliament, because they need us to take our time but the whole thing was rushed,” he said.
The analyst added that the announcement of intention by the Kenyan parliamentarians to move a motion seeking expulsion of South Sudan from the EAC “tells you that we are in a very shaky situation regarding our membership there.”
“The most dangerous part of it is that even if we try to amend our laws and we are being expelled there, what’s the use of us amending the law in a block which is expelling us? We are just wasting our time. So, it doesn’t look realistic,” Okuk said.
“The obligation to be a peaceful nation is the most critical part we are in now. If we don’t restore peace, it means we have broken one of the obligations which the East African block need. The moment we are a warring nation, a violent nation, we could be expelled very quickly before even we think of other things. So, this is the challenge ahead of us now.”
For his part, Tisa downplayed significance of opposing voices from within South Sudan and the region on the Country’s membership in the EAC saying it should not be a surprise.
“Of course, even right from the time president Salva applied for [EAC] membership, people have been trying to block it in South Sudan. That one you expect it. That’s why sensitization, talking like this is necessary. So those who believe that we should join the community should not at any time be discouraged or be surprised if there are voices that talk against it. And up to now there are Ugandans who say Ugandans should pull out. So, opposition, negative voices will also be there,” said the presidential adviser and envoy.
“Those who were against will continue to talk, will continue to spot failures by South Sudan and highlight them. Those who are for [South Sudan’s membership at the EAC] will say ‘even if they are failing here, they are also succeeding here.’ There are those who will be supporting South Sudan along the way. There are those who will be opposing South Sudan along the way. The thing to do is for us to learn, to expect this to happen, externally.”
Lack of public sensitization
According to Tisa, majority of South Sudanese do not know the costs and advantages of joining the EAC due to lack of enough sensitization and the low level of education in the Country.
“Internally, we also must know that there are three types of people with respect to our membership in the East African Community: those who know the full cost, the disadvantages of being a member and they know the advantages and the benefits, like me [who] on balance, believes that the benefits far outweigh the disadvantages. There are those, who also are like me, who know the benefits and the costs very well but as in their interpretation, they believe that the benefits are less than the costs. The two groups are well-informed.
“There is a third group which is the majority, they don’t know, they don’t know. You know our literacy rate is only 27 percent. If I talk very well today, they say OK ‘that [joining the EAC] is good.’ If another one comes and talks against it, they will say ‘it is not good.’ So this third group is the majority, they will only need to be sensitized.” the Presidential adviser added.
Dr. Okuk and one Dr. James Alic Garang, a senior economic analyst at Ebony Center for Strategic Studies both agree that majority of South Sudanese are not sensitized on joining the EAC, the costs and benefits resulting from the membership there.
“As we speak now, he is right, the majority don’t know. It is our duty to enlighten them so that they know, not really to put them in a place where they don’t understand anything. They could be exploited terribly, negatively, when they are blind inside there. It was [would have been] better that they got enlightened when they were outside,” said Okuk.
“These are good categorization on the ground that majority do not know why we are getting into the EAC and what cost or benefit will arise from the EAC [being in the block]. Those are majority; it is true,” Alic told ChimpReports.
“…when South Sudan was joining the EAC, when the application was launched; the message was not passed to our people. When we were doing the study, we did consultations here in Juba but we have not gone to the states. But overall, EAC was in South Sudan long before we went to EAC. So, what we are doing is just a formality, formalizing what was already existing.”
He attributed insecurity, lack of fund to go to the states and ‘fear of the unknown’ as reasons why the government failed to enlighten the public about the EAC before joining.
“There are those who think that if we had told the public, they would have asked for a little time before joining the EAC,” Alic said:
“Even creating the East African Affairs ministry, something that should have been done long time ago is not done now. We cannot operate as a secretariat. We are still behind and it is because of this mess: because of fear and because of saying ‘let’s apply first and then figure out the rest later.’
“Generally, I would say it’s a wrong start. Enough was not done to sensitize the public but in the midstream something was done.”
Also, South Sudan’s parliamentary committees tasked with scrutinizing the treaty prior to its subsequent ratification observed in a report in May 2016 that ministry of foreign affairs and international cooperation was not “actively” involved during the whole process of the South Sudan-EAC membership negotiations.
“Sensitization and awareness of citizens to the advantages and disadvantages of accession to EAC and encouraging involvement and active participation of the private sector and civil society organization,” recommended the joint committees of foreign affairs and international cooperation and that of legislation and justice in the South Sudan’s parliament.