The Political Miscalculus Of The EAC (Part V) – OpEd


Although its membership is not yet ratified by its Federal Parliament, Somalia was admitted into the EAC about a little over a month ago. What drove the EAC to this overstepping of its rules remains a mystery for Somalia is, indeed, not a country ready for being a member of this rapidly expanding grouping.

In less than ten years it has accepted into its fold a number of countries as diverse and as toxic as the DR Congo and South Sudan, and now Somalia. Probably this toxicity is a defining feature of the EAC for they seek bringing in countries that have serious infrastructural  and governance fragilities and problems. The DR Congo was at war with itself and its neighbors Uganda, Rwanda and Burundi for decades. South Sudan did not even get off the ground when its ruling elite split early in its secession from Sudan. The protracted civil war, the weak governance, the instability and a terrorized population mark Somalia. This latest acquisition of Somalia as a member clearly marks the group’s continuing political miscalculus.

The EAC is well aware of some of its shortcomings, which include among others the inability of its members to meet their financial commitments to the group, where some reports indicate that some of the countries like South Sudan, Burundi, and even Tanzania owe the organization sizeable amounts of their contributions. This was expected as most countries that are members of the group are classified as poor or using the UN lexicon, members of the Least Developed Countries (LDCs). How would Somalia, a country barely able to stand on its own feet and dependent on foreign assistance for the payment of the salaries of its governmental organs, be able to meet its obligations with respect to its expected contributions to the Group, which is obligatory? This is, indeed, a gross miscalculation of the EAC.

Somalia, which is poorer than most countries in the group could have spent whatever resources it has in a better way to meet the needs of its populations or meet the gaps in its finances. It does not raise enough taxes locally for it is not in control of its total territory. Even the corporations that operate in the capital city of Mogadishu do not pay their tax obligations to the government but to extra- governmental bodies including terror groups for protection purposes.

Somalia is not an industrial country, nor does it provide income generating tourism or other services that could fill its coffers. It is, at best, a trading country, which imports its needs be it clothes, capital goods, consumer goods, food, construction materials from other countries including the EAC, and even recently, most of its acquired addictive miraa light drug, from the EAC. The lowering of the tariffs would, therefore, affect the tax collection capacity of the government and hence reduce its ability to meet its financial obligations, both internal and external. This should only increase the potential challenges between Somalia and the EAC and in particular Kenya, which together with Uganda and Burundi, maintain troops in the country as part of ATMIS, the failed African mission in the country. 

Somalia is inhabited by a distinct group called the Somali, a nation of poets and camel herders that quarrel over grazing and water resources and now governmental issues, a phenomenon they are not used to, and they are marked by lack of subservience to any authority. No wonder the European colonialists found them unruly and generally stayed away from them in their enclosures or seats of power in the country. The EAC would be in for a surprise. The EAC would not be able to handle the potential disputes that may arise within the group as soon as the admission is ratified by its federal parliament, although this may never happen. They should, indeed, wish it never happens!

Somalia does not have a ratified constitution and its federal members states, being clan enclaves, do not abide by the rules of the federal government. Indeed, Somaliland remains quasi-independent as it declared over thirty years ago its independence and recovery of its long-lost freedom from the rest of Somalia. The EAC was aware of this issue but ignored it and should not, therefore, be surprised when the quarrel between the two, lands on their desks. Perhaps this may trigger many provinces of the member countries of the EAC to adopt the way of Somaliland. The admission of Somalia into the EAC was, indeed, a disastrous political miscalculus of the EAC.

With respect to all those issues and many others, it appears that the EAC has done a disservice to itself embarking on admitting fragile states like the DR Congo and South Sudan, but it has made its biggest mistake to date in its admission of  the most fragile state in the continent, Somalia, into its grouping.

Dr. Suleiman Walhad

Dr. Suleiman Walhad writes on the Horn of Africa economies and politics. He can be reached at [email protected].

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