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Somalia: Let us cheer Mohamud’s pitch to EAC


EDITORIAL | President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud is just about two months old in office but has already brought us significant cheer in our hearts. This week, he formally asked for the East African Community (EAC) to admit Somalia, making it known about Somalia’s desire to be a part of the regional community.

For those new to the discussion, Somalia had tried to join this bloc of seven countries before but was reprimanded for its weak institutions and commonplace violence of al-Shabaab. Incidentally, the first application came during Mohamud’s first term in office (2012-2017), also when al-Shabaab were killed for sport. In 2019, Somalia made the second attempt, but it was only this time that the bloc agreed to act on it. On Friday, the summit of the heads of state said they would soon send a verification team to Somalia to determine if it meets the admission criteria.

We think that is good news. Somalia is, indeed, still in a precarious position, and al-Shabaab is still raiding towns and planting suicide bombs on cars. Its institutions aren’t firm yet, but it has passed recent laws and elected leadership already promising to unite the country to a common cause.

There are obvious advantages to joining the EAC. First is the regional proximity. Mohamud himself said: “Somalia belongs to East Africa. There is no one country among the seven countries sitting here that Somalia is not linked to by business, by the community by any other means.”

In every of the member states of EAC, there are Somali business people and refugees, which suggests that Somalia’s wealth or problems can easily spill over to neighbors. But Somalia has a problem. Its nationals must apply for visas to all of its neighbors, an indictment to its passport. An EAC admission will ease this pain based on its much-marketed standard market protocol and the free movement of goods and people.

What is more, an EAC market of 150 million people is what Somali entrepreneurs need, not to mention the availability of technical support that Somalia may get from its more advanced neighbors. In short, EAC will make Somalia be felt closer by its neighbors and hence influence them to view the country more for its strength than weakness.

Indeed, Mohamud himself said he was not applying to have Somalia sheltered. He said, “We don’t want to be a liability anymore…and that he wants Somalia to be “a contributing partner.”

Applying to join EAC will not solve all problems, that is for sure. But it can help bring Somalia into a united fold. The EAC is the only working bloc in our region, one whose decisions have routinely been implemented, even though slowly. Today, it includes Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania, Rwanda, South Sudan, Burundi, and the Democratic Republic of Congo. These countries are at variant stages of implementing various protocols. But it is also clear they have gained more being in the bloc than outside.

Somalia will still need to work on its internal politics, legal frameworks, and leadership. But recent lessons have shown that countries need to be integrated to fight cross-border challenges, including climate change, terrorism, and poverty.


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