By David Lumu
Faced with a never-ending conflict in South Sudan, Heads of State in the East Africa Community bloc have this week summoned an extra-ordinary summit in Arusha-Tanzania on Wednesday.
Impeccable sources have told us that the one-day meeting would tackle the South Sudan question with leaders expected to forge possible solutions to clashes in the world’s youngest nation, which applied to join the conglomeration of Uganda, Kenya, Tanzania, Rwanda and Burundi in 2011.
Minister for East African Community Affairs, Shem Bageine confirmed that President Yoweri Museveni would be attending the meeting but he could not divulge what the leaders would discuss.
“I cannot comment on anything to do with the agenda of the meeting now. Let’s wait for the meeting to end. What I can say is that all the EAC Heads of State will attend including President Yoweri Museveni,” he said.
The EAC meeting has come at a time when the conflict that started last December is taking an ugly turn as the South Sudan defence forces continue to battle rebels linked to Riek Machar, the former Vice President.
The volatile nature of this conflict has become an immense concern for EAC member states.
In a statement released on Friday last week, Kenya’s President Uhuru Kenyatta, who is the current chairperson of EAC summit said that: "We refuse to be witnesses to such atrocities and to remain helpless and hopeless in their wake. We especially reject the possibility that we are creeping into genocide again in our region. We shall not stand by and allow it to happen."
South Sudan President Salva Kiir, who is expected to attend the Arusha meeting, last week sacked General James H. Mai, the army commander and also released the alleged four architects of the military coup takeover. The four are Pagan Amum, former secretary-general of the ruling party, ex-national Security minister Oyai Deng Ajak, former ambassador to the US Ezekiel Lol Gatkuoth, and ex-deputy Defence minister Majak D'Agoot.
The rebels have so far taken over Bentui with threats of advancing to Bor. However, UPDF spokesperson Lt. Col. Paddy Ankunda warned that Uganda would not allow the rebels to take over Bor.
“They will regret if they dare to attack Bor. They know what we are capable of,” Ankunda wrote on his twitter handle.
At a meeting in Rwanda on Wednesday last week, the East African defence and military officials said that by December the Eastern African Standby Force (EASF) would be in place. James Kabarebe, Rwanda’s Defence Minister said that this joint force would prevent terrorism and also prevent the conflicts within the region and work towards peace building.
EAC leaders—Paul Kagame (Rwanda), Jakaya Kikwete (Tanzania), Pierre Nkurunziza (Burundi), Kenyatta and Museveni—are expected to discuss how to pool troops for this joint force.
Other things to be debated
According to a statement from the EAC secretariat, the leaders will discuss the progress on key protocols such as the implementation of the Common Market protocol, which provides for the free movement of goods, persons, labor, services and capital, the Customs Union, which was signed in 2005 and the Monetary Union protocol that was signed last year in Kampala.
The Presidents will also consider a report on the revised model structure, road map and action plan for the East Africa Political Federation, which is the final an ultimate objective of the EAC.