By The Homeland News Corps
Signs of widening cracks among East African Community (EAC) member states have emerged after a heads of state summit were cancelled for the second time in three weeks.
The integration of the East African Community hangs in balance as a summit that was due for this month has been called off due to a lack of quorum.
The meeting of the presidents of Kenya, Tanzania, Uganda, Rwanda, Burundi and South Sudan, which was slated for December 27 in Arusha, has been pushed to a later date.
This is after South Sudan, one of the member states informed the Secretariat in Arusha that they will not be available for the 29th February scheduled summit to internal preparations regarding a new political transition in Juba.
“The 21st Meeting of the Summit of the EAC Heads of State has been postponed to a later date following a request by the Republic of South Sudan, which said it was currently in the process of forming a transitional government bringing together the government and opposition groups,” a statement from the EAC secretariat reads in part.
“Also postponed is the 41st Extra-Ordinary Meeting of the EAC Council of Ministers that was scheduled to take place from 25th to 27th February 2020 at the EAC Headquarters in Arusha.
The 41st Council was supposed to precede and make preparations for the Summit meeting.” the statement continues
The communication was was carried in a letter dated 21rs February from Rwanda’s EAC minister Olivier Nduhungirihe.
High on the 21st EAC Heads of State Summit is a review of the four pillars of the bloc: The Customs Union, Common Market, Monetary Union, and Political Confederation as a transition to the Political Federation.
In November last year, President Paul Kagame called off the EAC summit saying the decision was taken after a request by a president in the region.
The summit had been postponed twice after Burundi’s last minute boycott of the planned November meet which was rescheduled to December but failed to take place.
Rwanda President Paulo Kagame did not name the president who made the request but it was later learned that the summit was called off due to tensions between Uganda and Rwanda.
It is also not clear that there are other issues affecting the region to say Uganda Rwanda tension could also be a cause for the suspension of the summit only time will give a key verdict to where the EAC’s future will be.
Last year’s summit two of the region leaders did not attend and Burundi’s Pierre Nkurunziza sent his first vice-president Gaston Sindimwo while South Sudanese leader Salva Kiir will be represented by his Minister for Trade, Industry and East African Affairs Paul Mayom Akec.
Burundi wanted the EAC leaders to first address differences pitting his country and Rwanda. Relations between the two neighbours have soured since the failed Bujumbura coup in 2015 threatening to tear apart the Community.
Now, there is expectations that the Summit will help unlock programmes and foster EAC integration at a time when observers have predicted a collapse akin to the 1977 one.
Other challenges the EAC faces include frosty relations between Rwanda and Uganda, trade wars among the member states, and funding.
But the rows among some partner states will not feature at the Summit, according to the agenda released.
The leaders were expected review progress towards creating the East African Political Federation, ending conflict between Uganda and Rwanda, the roadmap for the accelerated integration of the Republic of South Sudan into the EAC, and; the verification exercise for the admission of the Republic of Somalia into the Community.
The Summit is also expected to discuss modalities for the promotion of motor vehicle assembly in the region in a bid to reduce importation of used vehicles, as well as review the textile and leather sectors.
Cracks and Uncertain Future
Regional analysts and observers said they were not surprised by the cancellation, pointing out the widening cracks in the six-nation bloc, including the recent standoff and tensions between the Uganda and Rwanda that has created continued closure of Boarders and impacting regional movement of people goods and services.
The letter informs further that the summit taking place and a said communication to the effect would be issued in the due course.