Regional security concerns were raised here yesterday as the East African Community (EAC) tables the application of Somalia to join the bloc today.
“The kind of environment we are living today is that we are threatened by terrorism” lamented Chris Kiptoo, the Kenyan principal secretary for Trade said.
He told a gathering at the official opening of the re-branded East African Business Council (EABC) offices in Arusha that guarantees of security are pertinent in doing business.
He said the EAC partner states must work closely against terrorist threats which, he fears, can damage trade and investments. “No private sector or business can thrive or succeed without guaranteed security”, he explained.
Another Kenyan official Patrick Ole Ntutu assured everything was being done to ensure the frequent terrorist attacks in his country by militants from Somalia did not spill into the other states.
The warning on potential terrorist threats were made as the EAC leaders are today expected to review a report of Somalia’s application to join the bloc.
EAC leaders meet in Arusha
The war-wracked Horn of Africa country applied to join the Community in early 2013. Ever since the EAC has insisted it was yet to send a verification team there to assess the country’s level of preparedness.
However, regional analysts contend that Somalia’s delay to join the bloc could have been due to it being a haven of terrorists.
Although Kenya had been under siege from the Al Shabaab insurgents since 2011, two major attacks in Nairobi in 2013 and last month, killing nearly 90 people, shook the entire region and beyond.
Recently, the EAC secretary general Liberat Mfumukeko confirmed that Somalia’s application to join the bloc was still on course.
However, he stressed that the Arusha-based secretariat would have to send a preliminary team “to assess the level of the country’s readiness”.
The team would be followed by a verification exercise team to be constituted by the EAC Council of Ministers, the policy organ of the Community.
Simon Mapolu, a consultant who comments on regional issues, has cautioned EAC on the admission of more members, including Somalia.
He said instead of bringing in more members into the regional body, EAC should put its house in order first. “Don’t rush for political federation and instead focus on economic integration.
Politics is already creating problems”, he said. Today’s meeting of the regional leaders in Arusha would also receive a report on the roadmap to accelerated integration of South Sudan which was admitted in 2016.