After greater than a decade of intense lobbying, Somalia has been admitted into the East African Group (EAC). After ratification by the Somali Federal Parliament, the membership will change into official.
The appliance course of, began by former President Sharif Sheikh Ahmed in 2011, had been lengthy and arduous with some member states allegedly hesitant to convey Somalia into the fold.
The method lastly yielded fruit this yr after the present president, Hassan Sheikh Mohamud, appointed a particular envoy to speed up the admission course of not lengthy after he got here into workplace in August 2022 for a second time. Mohamud, who was additionally president from 2012 to 2017, was a key backer of regional integration throughout his first time period.
“We’re a major nation within the area which might contribute loads, and we may also profit from them,” Mohamud mentioned as he landed in Mogadishu after an EAC summit in Arusha, Tanzania, the place Somalia was admitted into the bloc on Friday.
The president has mentioned Somalia’s membership may also profit EAC members Burundi, the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), Kenya, Rwanda, South Sudan, Uganda and Tanzania.
Critics of the transfer mentioned the admission of Somalia, a rustic of greater than 17 million folks and an extended historical past of battle, may introduce safety challenges for the bloc, which now has a mixed inhabitants of greater than 300 million folks, or a fourth of Africa’s inhabitants.
Nevertheless, specialists argued that Somalia has taken vital strides in its battle in opposition to the armed group al-Shabab and level to safety challenges in different EAC members such because the DRC, the place at the least 120 armed teams are combating in its risky east, and South Sudan, which has been out and in of a civil struggle since earlier than its independence.
Challenges and opportunities
The EAC was stablished in 2000 and is headquartered in Arusha. Its mission has been to foster economic growth by, among other things, eliminating customs duties among member states. It established a common market in 2010.
Somalia’s primary economic activities are livestock and agriculture, and they have proven to be highly vulnerable to climate change. Livestock remains Somalia’s main export, followed by bananas, fish, hides and skin, and charcoal, but the country is believed to have potential offshore resources like oil and gas.
Since 1991 when Somalia’s government collapsed, leading to three decades of political instability and the rise of al-Shabab, the country’s trade volume with its neighbours shrank rapidly.
Still, analysts said, Somalia, which has Africa’s longest coastline and an estimated two million citizens in the diaspora, is ripe for economic integration with its neighbours.
“I think EAC countries also see Somalia’s … successful investments by Somalis in EAC countries,” Mohamed Abdi Waare, political analyst and a former president of Somalia’s Hirshabelle state, told Al Jazeera. “They also see its vast blue economic potential in its long coastline, the opportunities to participate in the reconstruction of Somalia and to leverage Somalia links with its diaspora, its links with the Middle East and its strategic location.”
“With massive natural resources, the rebuilding and reconstruction boom after the defeat of al-Shabab, Somalia will provide an excellent opportunity for regional investment in its blue economy, its infrastructural rehabilitation and its real estate and construction industries,” he added.
However, not everyone is on board with the integration, even within the Horn of Africa nation.
Friday’s announcement has become contentious among Somalis. Many have described the integration as rash or too early.
One of them is Abdirahman Abdishakur, the presidential envoy for humanitarian coordination, who said EAC membership is different from that in other bodies like the African Union (AU), Intergovernmental Authority on Development, Arab League and Organisation of Islamic Conference.
“We understand that all [those bodies were] fashioned for political, peace and growth cooperation, however the EAC bloc is totally different and was primarily fashioned for financial and commerce functions,” Abdishakur, who can be a member of parliament, instructed Al Jazeera. “For Somalia, we don’t have items, companies and financial ideology to convey to the desk.”
“Virtually each Somali middle-class [citizen] purchased an residence and has their household in Nairobi, and the true property is booming, which indicators [an] benefit for Kenya’s financial progress and different international locations need the identical,” he mentioned. “It’s an added benefit [to member states] for Somalia to affix the bloc, however we aren’t gaining a lot.”
He added that Somalia may very well be higher off becoming a member of the bloc sooner or later if the nation’s management may present sources, vitality and concepts to stabilise the nation first.
There are additionally different challenges.
After its accession, Somalia is required to place parts of the treaty into legislation inside six months of signing the doc.
In a report launched this month, the Heritage Institute, a Mogadishu-based suppose tank, burdened that this may very well be robust to do and thus hinder Somalia from being an efficient member of the EAC. This, the report mentioned, was because of the nation’s poor monitor report on governance, human rights, rule of legislation and socioeconomics. Moreover, “fixed friction between the Somali federal authorities and member states” may additionally hinder easy ratification of the treaty in parliament, the report mentioned.
“Any infrastructure that Somalia lacks will solely delay the a part of the mixing for which such infrastructure is required,” Bashir Sheikh-Ali, a senior authorized fellow on the Heritage Institute and the writer of the report, instructed Al Jazeera.
As an illustration, the EAC expects companion states to have dispute decision boards for interstate issues inside the bloc, Sheikh-Ali mentioned. With out an unbiased judiciary, Somalia could not be capable to totally take part or profit from the bloc’s binding resolutions, he mentioned.
“If the Somali authorities takes the creation of an unbiased judiciary critically, Somalia may have a shot at having a full-fledged authorities, which ought to result in a greater atmosphere for folks in all points of their lives,” he added.
The institute instructed in its report that the nation create a complete danger minimisation plan and safe a protracted interval of treaty implementation.
Lately, relations have soured between Somalia and its autonomous area of Somaliland over the disputed metropolis of Las Anod. A few of the EAC members have a diplomatic presence in each territories, and it stays to be seen how the bloc would assist preserve the peace after Hargiesa, capital of the self-declared Republic of Somaliland, beforehand shunned Kampala’s effort to mediate with it and Mogadishu.
Beforehand, Somalia was embroiled in a diplomatic rift with Kenya – the one bloc member that straight borders it – over a maritime dispute. The previous requested the Worldwide Court docket of Justice (ICJ) to rule on the case after out-of-court negotiations between the 2 nations failed.
Though Kenya refused to acknowledge the ICJ ruling in 2021 that favoured Somalia, specialists mentioned the 2 international locations now have a platform to resolve any future disputes.
“For the Kenyan aspect, there was no avenue to resolve the problem, however now after the admission of Somalia to the East African Group, there may be hope any future dispute between the 2 international locations might be resolved by the mechanisms of the financial bloc,” mentioned Abdullahi Abdi, an analyst on Horn of Africa affairs.
Indicators of that new concord may manifest quickly sufficient.
In June, the AU Transition Mission in Somalia, beforehand referred to as the AU Mission in Somalia, started winding down its peacekeeping mission. Established in 2017, its mandate totally ends subsequent yr. 1000’s of the AU peacekeepers got here from three EAC members.
Analysts imagine that Somalia’s accession will solely enhance its neighbours’ want to deal with eliminating the armed group al-Shabab. The EAC has deployed a regional power to the DRC, the final member to affix, and will nicely do the identical for Somalia.
If that results in the decimation of al-Shabab, which is notorious for its resilience, then Somalia’s admission into the EAC may develop into a masterstroke not only for the nation but additionally the area, they mentioned.