July 14, 2014 (JUBA) – South Sudan’s bid to join the East African Community (EAC) got a notch closer as a delegation from the regional bloc paid a courtesy visit to the capital, Juba, this week.
Richard Sezibera, the EAC secretary-general, said the “engagement” trip aimed at enlightening South Sudanese leaders on the criteria and obligations involved for joining the five-member bloc, which currently comprises Uganda, Kenya, Tanzania, Rwanda and Burundi.
“[It] is a dialogue which we are happy to continue. South Sudan in many ways is East African. Our people have long history together,” he told reporters in Juba on Monday.
The EAC official, however, declined to divulge more details on the meeting to he held with South Sudanese ministers, among others.
South Sudan applied to join the regional bloc soon after it gained its independence in July 2011. Its membership approval was, however, put on hold in 2013 after the EAC member states raised concerns over poor governance, market structure and weak justice systems.
South Sudan’s foreign minister said time was ripe for his country to gain admission in to the regional body.
“We have been talking to each other [for] long time now. The idea is how South Sudan, through the legal processes, can become a member of the EAC,” said Barnaba Marial Benjamin.
He further said South Sudan was still acquainting itself with the status of being a member state, having been an observer since it gained independence three years ago.