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Africa Policy Journal

Topic / International Relations and Security

South Sudan’s Entry into the East African Community: Prospects and Challenges

On July 09, 2012, the Republic of South Sudan celebrated its first year anniversary. The previous year, on November 11, 2011, it submitted an application to formally join the East African Community (EAC), a regional organization consisting of Burundi, Kenya, Rwanda, Uganda, and Tanzania. South Sudan, a landlocked country in East Africa, emerged from four decades of war that cost the lives of more than two-and-half million people. It has an estimated population of 8,260,490 [2]with the majority (83 percent) constituted by rural peasants, nomadic communities, pastoralist and farmers. Citizens of South Sudan depend on farming and animal husbandry for their livelihood.[3] The Government of the Republic of South Sudan (GRSS) is attempting to build a developmental state in the face of ethnic violence that poses an existential threat and undermines the process of nation-building.[4] Amidst the many outstanding challenges and aspirations facing the new Republic, is a campaign to include South Sudan in the EAC.

The task of reviewing the case of South Sudan was delegated to the Council of Ministers, the decision-making body of the EAC,responsible for determining whether a country complies with the requirements. This essay analyzes prospects and development challenges facing South Sudan and exposes the problems embedded in its quest for membership in the EAC. The issues that will constrain EAC’s attempt to build a common monetary union and political federation will be discussed. In particular, two issues will be highlighted: the relationships between the market and society, and between land and citizenship.  In order to become an EAC member state, a country must adhere to a series of standards such as principles of good governance, democracy, rule of law, social justice, and respect for human rights.[5]

The development challenges facing South Sudan include at least the following: the “absence of good infrastructure and skilled labor, heavy dependency on oil revenues, and corruption.”[6]In addition, the majority of civil servants lack formal education and training as a result of decades of war.[7]  Institutional weakness is furthermore exacerbated by problems of violence,[8] unemployment, illiteracy, extreme poverty affecting predominantly women and youth[9] and an inflow of refugees and internally displaced persons.[10] A report by the African Development Bank (AfDB) noted that “Infrastructure services are virtually non-existent in many parts of South Sudan. Its dilapidated infrastructure constitutes a formidable barrier to economic development and hinders economic diversification, inclusive private sector-led growth and productive employment.[11]


Sovereignty, Markets and Social Democracy within the EAC

Two issues sorely neglected in discussions about South Sudan’s inclusion into the EAC are the relationship between the market and society and that between land and citizenship.  The EAC has an ambitious plan to adopt “a single currency, harmonize fiscal and monetary policies, and ultimately evolve into a political federation.”[12]The issue at stake for South Sudan is sovereignty. Losing sovereignty to the federation could mean a loss of control over currency as well as fiscal and monetary policies. When governments lose sovereignty over their national currency, the outcomes can be serious for the citizens who must live with the consequences, particularly if decisions are made by an undemocratic bureaucracy that fails to consult with those it governs.[13]  In the absence of democratic decision-making processes and public discourse over national policies, decisions tend to be delegated to a body that is politically unaccountable. Drawing lessons from the European Union (EU), which inspired the African Union (AU) and the EAC, Mamdani noted that “without a mechanism to ensure political accountability at the centre, the EU has turned towardsmarket fundamentalism.”[14] Without resolving the underlining issues that led to the failure of the old community, the EAC is setting itself up for a similar fate.

If admitted to the EAC, South Sudan will join not as the biggest and strongest economy but as one of the weakest. The following questions must be asked;what programs and initiatives exist to manage market weaknesses so that South Sudan will not become the dumping ground of goods and services from neighboring economies?; what provision is there by the EAC to assist South Sudan to develop the production capacity of its infant industries?; have South Sudanese citizens been consulted about ascension into the EAC?; has there been a sustained, internal debate about the inclusion of South Sudan within the EAC? Without a democratic process, the outcome will not represent the will of the people and South Sudanese society may be sacrificed to achieve narrow political and economic aims for a minority interest.

While South Sudan faces formidable challenges, the widerEast African region is also experiencing pressures.  According to Mamdani, the fault line in the region is similar tothat which has emerged in Europe: the division of countries into categories of  ‘rich’ and ‘poor’, the Germanys and Greeces of the world.[15] The question that immediately arises is: who will protect the weakest countries from being dominated by the strongest? Historically, the safety mechanism against market forces has been political democracy. Without political democracy, nothing stands between market forces and the population. Mamdanisummarizes the relationship between market forces and social democracy as follows:

“If the law of the market is might is right, then the basis of citizenship is political equality. If the market stands for rights, then citizenship stands for justice. In a democracy, the poor and the weak look to political power to give them minimum protection against those who rule the marketplace.” [16]

The challenge before South Sudan and EAC member states is to form a monetary union without sacrificing the political unity that protects social democracy. Without a political union, monetary unions have a tendency to turn towards market fundamentalism.  The second challenge that remains unresolved within the infrastructure of the EAC is that of land tenure and citizenship, namely reconciling between claims based on ethnicity and those based on residence. Contested citizenship and competing rights to land are problems that have led to mass violence throughout East Africa. South Sudan and the EAC member states will have to reconcile between private, public, state and communal land ownership within the framework of an inclusive citizenship.

It seems the call for fast-tracking the development of the EAC federation is premature and representsan attempt to ignore deep, divisive issues which, if left unresolved, will lead to the demise of the community like its predecessor in 1977. The lessons of the European Union should provide an example of the dangersof rushing to a monetary union without first building adequate political structures to sustain the process of economic integration. The EAC has deferred to individual States all land and citizenship policies and instead of reforming a colonially-imposed land tenured system and citizenship laws. According to Mamdani, the problem can be summarized as follows:

“Can the principle of land to the tiller (security of tenure) inherent in customary tenure be preserved in a united East Africa? Or will unity sacrifice this to freehold tenure and principles of market fundamentalism? Second, can unity create something more than a market – a playing field where the rich and powerful will inevitably dominate? Can it create a meaningful citizenship, a political shelter for the majority?” [17]

Can the EAC states create a union that is more than a simple market? Can they set up a system that is democratically accountable rather than an “urban dictatorship over rural areas?”, a system that can overcome the weaknesses evident in the European Union?. [18] The EAC has an opportunity to learn from the lessons of history by creating sufficient political unity before attemptinga monetary union. To ignore these lessons is to run the risk of facilitating a potentially despotic system of freehold land tenure, the demise of peasant landownership, and an ethnicized citizenship.



The Russian-born economist, Alexander Gerschenkron, noted that for countries that are catching up from behind, there are increasing disadvantages in developing late.[19] When the EAC was launched, Tanzania and Uganda were given sufficient time to protect infant industries and prepare for entry into a common market. Rwanda and Burundi lobbied for time to prepare for the ascension and were allowed several years to adjust to the requirements of the Treaty of the EAC. Should South Sudan proceed with its plan of joining the EAC, it must request additional timeto develop strong institutions for governance, economic sectors, and labor.

Without this preliminary step, it is unlikely that South Sudan can reap the benefits of the community. South Sudan’s development agenda is severely constrained by a near total absence of key institutions, infrastructure or a skilled labor force essential to carry forward its development objectives contained in its guiding framework, The South Sudan Vision 2040. [20]

At the regional level, the EAC must reform the infrastructure embedded during the colonial period, which is currently weak and fragmented and will undermine the community’s development. This infrastructure was inherited by all countries in East Africa except for Tanzania which has implemented successful reforms. South Sudan’s development and ability to benefit from the EAC will depend on significant investment in human resources andinstitutions of governance as well as physical infrastructure.




AfDB (2012). The African Development Bank Group in East Africa: Consolidating the Present

AndShaping the Future. Tunis-Belvedere, Tunisia: African Development Bank (AfDB) Group.

Available at




AfDB (2012). South Sudan: Interim Country Strategy Paper 2012-2014. Tunis-Belvedere, Tunisia: Regional Department, African Development Bank Group. Available at <>


Dagne, T. (2011). The Republic of South Sudan: Opportunities and Challenges for Africa’s Newest Country. CRS Report for Congress: Prepared for Members and Committees of Congress. Congressional Research Service.Available at <>


EAC (2007). Treaty For The Establishment of the East African Community (As amended on 14th December, 2006 and 20th August, 2007). Arusha, Tanzania: East African Community (EAC). Accessible at <>


Gerschenkron, A. (1962). Economic backwardness in historical perspective; a book of essays, New York, Praeger


Government of the Republic of South Sudan. (2011). South Sudan Development Plan 2011-2013: Realising freedom, equality, justice, peace and prosperity for all. Juba, South Sudan: Ministry of Finance and Economic Planning, South Sudan. Accessible from <>


IDMC & NRC. (2012). South Sudan: New displacement adds to critical humanitarian situation in the country since independence. Geneva, Switzerland: Internal Displacement Monitoring Centre & Norwegian Refugee Council.Available at

Jok, J. M. (2012). Insecurity and Ethnic Violence in South Sudan: Existential Threats to State?

IssuePapers. Juba, South Sudan: The Sudd Institute. Available at

Kamau, A. W.  (2012). South Sudan’s Quest for Regional Integration. South Sudan One Year After Independence: Opportunities and Obstacles for Africa’s Newest Country. Washington, DC.: The Brookings Institution.
Available at <>.


Lacher, W. (2012). South Sudan: International State-Building and its Limits. SWP Research Paper 2012/RP 04. Berlin: Germany StiftungWissenschaft und Politik/German Institute for International and Security Affairs. Available at <>


Mamdani, M. (2011). The East African Federation: Challenges for the Future. Text of keynote

address tothe East African Legislative Assembly Symposium, “A Decade of Service towards

Political Federation,”Arusha, 30th June 2011. .Arusha, Tanzania: Makerere Institute of Social

Research &Pambazuka News.



on-theeast-african-federation&catid=1:latest-news&Itemid=50>; Accessible also from

PambazukaNews<> [Accessed July 16



National Bureau of Statistics (2012). Key Indicators for South Sudan. Juba, South Sudan:

NationalBureau of Statistics. Available at <

south-sudan.html>.forkey indicators on South Sudan.


Zambaraki, C. (2012a). Post-Referendum Sudan: The Nation-Building Project and Its

Challenges.Rutgers Journal of Law & Public Policy, 9, 505-544.


Zambakari, C. (2012b). The role of women in nation-building in South Sudan. Pambazuka News.


Zambakari, C. 2013. Post-Referendum South Sudan: Political Violence, New Sudan and Democratic Nation-Building. The Georgetown Public Policy Review, Forthcoming in Spring 2013 edition.


Author Biography

Christopher Zambakari is a Doctor of Law and Policy (LP.D.), Northeastern University, Boston, Massachusetts, and a Rotary Peace Fellow (2014-2015), University of Queensland, Australia. His area of research and expertise is policy development that ensures political stability and socio-economic development, and his interests include modern political and legal thought, governanceand democracy, the rule of law, postcolonial violence, and nation-building projects in Africa. His work has been published in law, economic, and public policy journals.


[1] This is an abridged version of a forthcoming article. Special thanks to Barbara Pine for her review and constructive feedback.

[2] National Bureau of Statistics(2012)

[3] Ibid.

[4] Jok, J. M. (2012), Lacher, W. (2012), Zambakari, C. (2013).

[5]EAC (2007).

[6] Dagne, T. (2011).

[7]AfDB (2012).

[8]Zambaraki, C. (2012a).

[9]Zambakari, C. (2012b).

[10]AfDB (2012), IDMC & NRC.(2012).

[11]AfDB. (2012).

[12]Kamau, A. W.  (2012).

[13] This is something that Greece and the weaker economies in Europe are learning painfully. The social democratic rights of countries with weaker economies have been subordinated and their sovereignties have come under assault by the more powerful European States seeking to impose austerity measures from above without putting into place democratic mechanisms for accountability.

[14]Mamdani, M. (2011).

[15] Ibid.

[16] Ibid.

[17] Ibid.

[18] Ibid.

[19]Gerschenkron, A. (1962).

[20]Government of the Republic of South Sudan. (2011).