The Horn Of Africa States: Somalia Does Not Belong To The EAC – OpEd


Somalia is a country that is looking for itself. It fell off the rails over thirty-some years ago, when its government then, collapsed, and the country broke down into several clan fiefdoms. It does not enjoy a constitution and does not have control over its recognized territory, where parts of the country, Somaliland, want to secede from the rest of the country and where there is hardly a working relationship between some of the member states of the federally organized country and the federal government and where others are still trying to break away from the current member states they belong to such as the recently declared Hiran State of the Hirshabelle State or the SSC Khatumo, which is trying to secede from Somaliland.

Wouldn’t admitting Somalia into its fold make the EAC the laughingstock of Africa and the world? I guess it would. But worse is the other fact Somalia has no army and those in close contact with the system admit that the army that was trained, mostly with Turkish and Eritrean and other countries’ help seems to have been dismantled, and the country does not have a strong force that can assure peacebuilding. This is evidenced by the fact that the current ruling federal government has sought the UN Security Council to extend the mandate of the ATMIS contingent that was earlier agreed to exit the country by the end of September 2023. If it had a proper army, the government would not have sought such an extension. It appears the plans set out before are obviously not working.

Somalia is generally marked as a failed state par excellence and therefore, whatever colorful picture it paints of itself at present, does not truly represent the correct situation of the country, and all such information so far presented even by the EAC Verification Team that went to Somalia, earlier this year, should be taken with a grain of salt. Somalia is a country that cannot join an existing group with pre-agreed rules of the game, which Somalia can not obviously fulfill. Somalia can perhaps look into joining a group of other countries that are initiating a new regional group such as the Horn of Africa States where the rules governing the group can be worked out together.

The EAC is now some twenty-four years old and has been functioning as a collective all these past years. It has covered a large part of its vision and mission to create an East Africa Federation, a new country to be built in the format of the United States of America, where existing members would lose their sovereignties. Why would a failed state, which is not in control of its territory, or its population seek to join such an organization? Why would an organization like the EAC seek admission of such a failed state into their fold? Perhaps the EAC grouping has ulterior motives, which have not been fully explained to the Somali Federal government which in all its “innocence” does not know what it is getting into.

Somalia is a poor country at present. No one knows what the future holds for it. The notion that it would benefit from joining the EAC through increased trade is unverifiable. The country has not made any such studies for how it could do so when it does not even have good information on what comes into the country and what goes out of it, that is, its exports or imports? Its central bank does not have control over its financial system which appears to be under the control of a few wealthy money transfer companies that do with the deposits of ordinary citizens to build more properties in their names or corporations in and outside the country, without proper oversights. If there is a run on these institutions, the chaos that would follow would be enormous and disastrous. The EAC Verification Team that went into Somalia earlier this year obviously did not present a correct report on Somalia. They are supposed to have verified Somalia’s institutional and legal framework policies, which are all just paperwork, which is not fully implemented in the entire country. This cannot represent the correct situation of the country, which is far from settled at this juncture of time.

The EAC Verification Team also assessed Somalia’s development strategies, which are again wishful ideas on paper, that cannot be implemented as long as the country is in its current political shambles. The country does not have proper infrastructures such as roads and railways. Currently, people only fly from one city to another because the road systems of the country are too dangerous to use for both people and cargo. Many traders pay heavy taxes, (in fact, more than the Federal government collects as taxes) to the terrorist groups operating in the country. How could the EAC work in such an environment? Perhaps there are many issues that are not being told to the public of Somalia!!!!! Somalia claims to have educational policies, energy policies, science, and peace and security policies and they can have as many beautifully written documents as possible. But they remain just as such, documents, and impracticable. There must be some hidden agenda on the matter of Somalia’s entry and admission into the EAC. But its citizenry, the majority of which do not agree with this process needs to know the full story.

Members of the EAC which have forces in Somalia such as Burundi, Uganda, and Kenya know very well that Somalia is not ready to join the EAC they envisage unless they are the ones pushing the matter because they think they can benefit from having Somalia and Somalis under their control. They should know that they are deadly wrong and that admission of Somalia into such a group would only cause more headaches than they can handle. Many countries have tried to control Somalia before and failed. They should go back to their schoolbooks and reread the history of Somalia and Somalis many times over.  The admission of Somalia into its fold would also allow all its terror groups to have access to a larger region to do their malicious business and many of the countries that are today pushing this, have already suffered under the attacks of those people. Uganda, Burundi, and Kenya all know this matter. They lost hundreds of their soldiers in Somalia already.

The statistics of Somalia are all false for no one has ever truly carried out a proper census on the country. One often reads that there are some 17 million people in Somalia, but there are over 30 million in the Somalia Federal Republic, some 21 million in Ethiopia, another 12 million in Kenya, and one million in Djibouti. It is a large population, which when they feel threatened, can be very dangerous for any group such as the EAC. The EAC should think doubly twice before they embark on the matter. Kennedy Manyala, who previously worked in the EAC Secretariat is correct when he noted that people would move freely within the region, and many Somalis would come into Tanzania and settle there by right. He forgot to note that the vice versa also works and frightens off Somalis more than Tanzanians.

What is obvious is that Somalia is not a suitable candidate for the EAC to adopt and invite over to join them. Somalia cannot belong to the EAC but would be more suited to join a HAS region should the countries of the region decide one day to create such a grouping. Otherwise, Somalia should stay on its own until, it fixes itself and puts its house in order before seeking to fix others’ houses, which do not need her anyway.

The guiding principles for joining the EAC are as follows as per Article 3 (2) of the Treaty for establishing the EAC:

  1. Geographical proximity and interdependence between it and the Partner States. While Somalia shares a border with Kenya, there is no inter-dependence between Somalia and the Partner States including Kenya. Somalia is not dependent for its survival on Kenya or any of the other Member States of the EAC. Somalia’s external trade was always independent of any country. Indeed, many other countries do need it, but this could be Ethiopia for that matter, which has historical connections with the country dating back to millennia. In this respect, if there is any common sense, Somalia does not belong to the EAC despite its geographical proximity to Kenya. A border dispute still exists as a third of Kenya’s territory historically belongs to Somalia and it is not clear if this has been settled between the two states yet. Somalia, therefore, does not belong to the EAC.
  2. Acceptance of the Community as set out in the Treaty of Establishment of the EAC.  The Treaty as it evolved over the years is defined to create what is to be called the East African Federation. Is Somalia ready to lose its sovereignty? It has not consulted its population through universal suffrage, and more specifically when even the constitution of the country is non-existent. They talk about a draft document, but a draft document is a draft document. It is not a constitution which has been ratified by the population of the country. Hence Somalia cannot and should not hoodwink its population or the EAC itself into a matter that would cause headaches for the regional community, a future EAF country, and indeed, itself. Somalia thus does not belong to the EAC. It should work to re-establish itself, extending the rule of law in its territory, before extending its neck out.
  3. Adherence to universally acceptable principles of good governance, democracy and rule of law, observance of human rights, and social justice. This is a loaded condition and implies many issues that would not be acceptable to Somalia and Somalis. Somalia would not be able to fulfill this clause and hence does not belong to the EAC.
  4. Potential contribution to the strengthening of integration within the East African region. Somalia is a failed state, which is trying to find itself. Its economy is in chaos, there is no rule of law and the business in the country is conducted in an anarchic fashion. Its legal infrastructure is currently based on animalistic tribal/clan instinct and accordingly, Somalia barely exists through aid and grants from ill-intentioned NGOs and equally corrupt UN bodies, that have been around in the country since the collapse of the state with no project of repute in the country, in their name to date. Somalia does not generate enough to meet the salaries of its government staff, let alone contribute to strengthening the EAC integration. Somalia does not, therefore belong to the EAC.
  5. Establishment and maintenance of a market-driven economy. Somalia has probably the most open economy in the world as there is no rule of law. Everybody does what he or she wants, and if one does not like one, it is very easy to pressure them out in many ways. It is anarchic and undisciplined, which perhaps explains to a large extent why the federal government cannot collect any taxes except through the few outlets to the outside world handling imports and exports and passenger travel. Somalia does not belong to the EAC until it fixes and puts its house in order.
  6. Social and economic policies being compatible with those of the Community. This is another loaded statement, which covers many complex issues.  The EAC is a Swahili World, while Somalia is part of the Cushitic World. It is, indeed, very Somali which has no relation with the social and thinking processes of the Swahili World. Economic policies in Somalia exist only on paper and are not effective and to be very honest, impractical in the country’s current circumstances. This again demonstrates that Somalia does not belong to the EAC.

Other than all the above, one should note that failed states like Somalia have very limited capacities unlike the other partners in the East Africa Community and Somalia would thus be at a great disadvantage. The fistful of dollars sent through remittances on a monthly basis by Somalia’s large diaspora population would be siphoned off by the other East African Community members, most probably Kenya, which already absorbs ill-sourced funds from Somalia in many ways. Somalia would have surely a balance of payments deficit with the Community immediately should it be admitted. It would take years before such is corrected and it may perhaps never be re-adjusted or recovered, once again demonstrating to the sensible and logical people, why Somalia does not belong to the EAC.

There is no Somalia economy at play at present. It is a confused market that belongs to smugglers and people who never worked under an organized economic system with rules and regulations, terror groups, and indeed, a multitude of SMEs barely able to survive through their hawking and small stalls. This would be a great disadvantage to Somalia and Somalis, which again demonstrates that Somalia does not belong to the EAC.

The country’s trade and payment systems are handled through a dollarized financial system since the country does not have a currency. There may be Somali Shillings circulation in the market, but these are all illegally printed bills made by corrupt businesspeople. What prevents these people from corrupting the EAC partner member’s currencies in the long run? The EAC should be thinking hard before allowing Somali citizens which include many corrupt elements into their fold. Surviving the harsh realities of the country has forced many Somalis to do things that others may think impossible or unusual at best!!!! It is another indication of why Somalia does not belong to the EAC.

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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