By David Njagi
The odds of South Sudan joining the East African Community (EAC) looks promising, but continued hostility towards civilians from the region is eating into the progress that has been made so far.
Lately, there have been reports of xenophobia linked murders where Kenyans have been the most targeted group in the region, according to the African Research and Resource Forum (ARRF).
An EAC observation committee sent to Juba to assess its preparedness to join the regional bloc raised concerns over a few details that the youngest nation on the planet needs to straighten out.
Among them includes, limited women representation in government, failure to be a signatory of international human rights conventions, lack of a permanent electoral commission, and the fact that South Sudan is a highly militarized society.
“Provision of basic social services is still on an all time low in South Sudan,” says George Omondi, the executive secretary, ARRF. “To be on the same footing with EAC members there is need for leaders to set fresh priorities that address these concerns.”
For instance, says Omondi, formal education is still not within reach for many, in a society that has more than 60 ethnic groups.
While there is one teacher for about 117 students, he says, only about 25 per cent of the population is literate. Sixty per cent of the population cannot access healthcare, he says.
But the cloud should not obscure the silver lining. In a new book launched in Nairobi (Tuesday), the authors bring out the strong foundations in South Sudan, including its rich oil reserves, agricultural potential, and its strategic position among the Nile Basin states.
According to the book, Sudan after separation: New approaches to a new region, the challenges of the post separation era with Khartoum should not cloud the country’s potential of being a major economic player in the region.
The book gives insights how Juba can capitalize on new approaches to provide guidance and understanding of the regional socio-economic and political trends, which can be used in constructive international engagement.
“Negotiations are ongoing to push for fresh cross border cooperation by for instance making sure that the disarmament exercise goes on before the 2015 General Elections,” says Amb. Majok Guandong.
According to the diplomat, his country his still keen to join the EAC, and will demonstrate this commitment by cracking down on rogue civilians who have been hostile to the bloc’s other members.
“The violence that is being reported is not government policy but individual acts,” says Guandong. “South Sudan has no intention to harm Kenyans.”