South Sudan expressed concerns over a report that Kenya is mulling a review of East African treaty to accord veto powers to some member states.
A report by a Kenyan media had stated that a Kenyan parliamentary committee called for a review of the East African Community (EAC) Treaty in order to grant veto powers to the highest contributing partner states.
The Committee on Regional Integration recommended that the review should allow partner states’ contributions to be based on their ability to pay membership fees and those that pay more should have veto powers.
It also called on the founding partner states of EAC to consider paying contributions due for South Sudan and Burundi “in the spirit of the big brother.”
However, Dr. Anna Itto, one of the representatives of South Sudan in the East Africa Legislative Assembly (EALA), said Juba would not support such an idea. Itto said South Sudan would rather pay what is required.
“I think that is a non-starter, the reason being that South Sudan joined the East African Community as a sovereign state, and we hope that in the future that is how our participation in the community will be based on,” Itto said.
“I am quite sure the leadership of South Sudan would never want to end up in a situation where there will be a lesser country and where they do not make decisions like other partners’ states or their decisions do not matter,” she added.
She averred that every member country in the East African Community has the right to propose an idea which cannot be treated as final.
“In the EAC, as long as decisions are concerned, the treaty is concerned, and decisions regarding the EAC are made based on concern,” she said.
Itto added that South Sudan, as a member state of the EAC, also needs to hold a responsible position on how EAC affairs are run.
She pondered the need for setting up a better model for the payment of EAC dues.
“The Council of Ministers can choose one product and levy tax on it, and that tax (revenue) will go directly to the contribution that EAC needs in order to run the operation and manage the budget of EAC,” she said, as she rejected the suggestion of EAC founders paying for South Sudan and Burundi.
“It should not be other members paying more; if they have the veto powers, I do not think South Sudan would want anything like that,” she said.
“EAC should work hard to ensure that the member states pay their contribution, and if they don’t, there will be room to find out why they are unable to pay,” she said.
John Agany Deng, the Chairperson of the Specialized Committee on Information, said South Sudan is in the process of paying the dues, arguing the delay is attributed to the conflict that took place in the country.
“We are arranging to pay any arrears that we have. You know, our country has run into serious issues due to conflict; a lot of resources have been lost, and for that matter, we delay paying our dues,” Agany said.
EAC is a regional bloc of seven members: Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania, Rwanda, Burundi, South Sudan, and the Democratic Republic of the Congo. They have equal voting rights and mostly make decisions via consensus and rotational policy rather than a secret ballot.
Yet, the contribution share for membership fees has been problematic for some.
South Sudan, which joined the bloc in 2016, for instance, has been struggling financially to meet its obligations in the community.
Article 146 of the EAC Treaty states that the summit may suspend a member state from taking part in the activities of the community if it fails to observe and fulfill the fundamental principles and objectives of the treaty, including failure to meet financial commitments within a period of 18 months.
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