Khartoum’s application to join the East African Community was on the verge of collapse at the weekend after officials from Uganda and Tanzania refused to endorse it.
Sudan stunned the region earlier this year when it applied to join the EAC ahead of the breakaway Republic of South Sudan, which has closer political, economic and cultural ties to the rest of the EAC member states.
Speaking to Daily Monitor after a meeting of the EAC Council of Ministers here, Eriya Kategaya, Uganda’s minister for East African Affairs, said Uganda and Tanzania were not willing to admit the Khartoum government even though the governments of Rwanda, Kenya and Burundi didn’t offer any objections.
“We rejected their application after looking at several issues like their democracy, the way they treat women and their religious politics and we feel they don’t qualify at all,” Mr Kategaya said.
The final decision on Sudan’s application will be delivered on Wednesday when Presidents Museveni, Paul Kagame of Rwanda, Mwai Kibaki of Kenya, Jakaya Kikwete of Tanzania and Pierre Nkurunziza of Burundi meet in the heads-of-state summit.
Mr Kategaya said a similar application by South Sudan to join the regional trading bloc, which came only last week instead of the required six months ahead of the summit, was late and would instead be discussed next year.
Mr Henry Oryem Okello, Uganda’s junior Foreign Affairs minister, said although both Sudan and South Sudan had applied to join the EAC, first consideration would go to the government in Juba.
Article 3 of the EAC Treaty spells out the different qualifications for a new state’s admission, which range from sharing of borders to having a market-driven economy and practicing democracy.
Tensions have been rising between Sudan and South Sudan after the latter broke away in July, with reports of armed clashes along the common border where a dispute continues over control of the oil-rich Abyei region.
Sudan government officials were not available to comment by press time but Uganda’s rejection of its bid is in keeping with Kampala’s strong-arm foreign policy against what President Museveni has previously described as Khartoum’s attempts to forcefully spread Islamic ideology south.
Kampala and Khartoum have previously clashed over Uganda’s support towards the SPLA/M and Sudan’s own support towards Joseph Kony’s LRA rebels.
Meanwhile, Tanzanian officials yesterday refused to show up to sign a key report that is to be presented to the East Africa Heads of State Summit tomorrow on the community’s political federation.
Tanzania’s Minister of EAC Samuel Sita was not present in Bujumbura, Burundi, to append his signature on a report adopted by the Council of Ministers in what diplomats said was a sign of Tanzania’s reluctance to move ahead with plans for a political federation.
The new chair of the Council of Ministers, also Kenyan EAC Minister Musa Sirma told the press after the signing ceremony that Tanzania could sign the report at a later date.