Saturday, September 17, 2011

South Sudan delays membership in regional bloc

By MACHEL AMOS Nation Correspondent in Juba

South Sudan may not be joining the East African Community (EAC) anytime soon, it has now emerged.

The EAC leadership has been waiting for Africa’s newest country to re-apply to join the regional bloc after becoming independent on July 9 and even went an extra mile to put on hold Khartoum’s application pending Juba’s acceptance.

Even though Juba is eager to sign on, a string of challenges associated with the country’s infancy have overshadowed the process.

The country is struggling to improve its fledgling economy that relies heavily on imports from Uganda and Kenya, raising fears that it could turn into a dumping ground for products from the two countries once it joins the regional bloc.

“Our economy is still weak, and for the time being we don’t have products for export,” Mr Lual, the chairperson of the country’s parliamentary Foreign Affairs and International Relations committee, said.

“But countries like Kenya, Uganda and Tanzania are ahead of us. Their products will flood our market,” he said.

But the new government, challenged by institutionalised corruption and ethnic rivalries, is struggling to provide basic services to a people who have waited for so long for them and whose expectations exceed the ability of the government to deliver.

“As people of Africa — and we consider the people of EAC as our brothers in Africa — I believe any decision our government is going to take will put the priority on our people getting benefits,” he said.

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