SOUTH Sudan has started remitting part of its financial obligation to the East African Community (EAC) Secretariat, the ‘Daily News’ has learnt.
The world’s newest nation is reported to have paid 6.8bn/- ($3mn) worth of arrears it owed the Arusha based Secretariat.
However, the bloc’s latest entrant still has to settle the remaining 57bn/-($26mn), which is part of its of annual membership fee.
An EAC official privy to the information, disclosed that South Sudan had recently made the payment to the Secretariat, following pressure from regional lobby groups and from a section of East African Legislative Assembly (EALA) to have it kicked out of the regional intergovernmental organization of six Partner States, comprising of Burundi, Kenya, Rwanda, South Sudan, Tanzania and Uganda.
“As it stands, the EAC member state has started paying part of its debt to the Secretariat, it still remains to be seen when it will exactly clear the remaining balance,” said the EAC official who requested anonymity as he wasn’t authorized to speak to the media.
The Republic of South Sudan was, by end of this month, due to establish if it would still be part of the EAC following the debt.
Plagued by political instability, the world’s newest nation is currently struggling to raise enough money, which is part of its financial obligation to the regional bloc.
South Sudan which joined the community in April 2016, had by September 13, owed the Community over $27 mn/-, prompting activists and regional lawmakers to call for suspension of the membership of the newest partner state.
Last month, the activists under the umbrella of the East African Civil Society Organizations Forum (EACSOF) filed a petition to demand the EAC Council of Ministers to recommend to the Summit of EAC Heads of State to invoke article 143 and 146 on Partner States that have met the criteria of activation of that particular article.
Article 143 of the Treaty for the Establishment of the East African Community states that a Partner State which defaults in meeting its financial and other obligations under such a Treaty shall be subject to such action as the Summit may on the recommendation of the Council determine.
In the same vein, lawmakers with the regional legislative organ also weighed in on the matter, taking issue with the South Sudan’s failure of honouring its financial obligations towards the community, giving the new EAC member until end of this month to pay up.
Mid this year, the country appealed to the EAC Secretariat not to suspend it over debt, but rather give it more time to remit its dues.
Last month, a South Sudanese member with EALA, Hon Kim Ghai, said sanctioning the country would jeopardize the country’s gains including the quest for peace.
He was of the view that it was important for the member states to give the world’s newest nation some time to honour its financial obligations.
“While South Sudan rejected the option to join the League of Arab nations, it is interested in remaining within the EAC fold. “Sanctioning the country will not solve the problem”, he said.
Political conflict, compounded by economic woes and drought, has caused massive displacement, raging violence and dire food shortages in South Sudan over the years.
It is estimated that over seven million people — about two third of the population — are said to be in need of aid, including around 6.9 million people experiencing hunger.