(eTN) – “They are woefully unprepared to even reach applicant status at this time, and their budget woes have not helped them at all. But I think the last nail in their coffin was how they have caused huge financial pains to the business communities in Kenya and Uganda by not paying bills, and this is the result now,” said a regular source close to Uganda’s foreign ministry yesterday, when discussing the report of a panel of experts, which was tasked to assess South Sudan’s preparedness to join the East African Community, before continuing: “Your report about Jetlink in Kenya goes to the heart of the issue. We appreciate South Sudan has a lot of issues, a lot of problems, and most of those are caused by external factors, but the EAC is about integration; about harmonized trade, financial, legislative and regulatory regimes.
“South Sudan has on a broad basis missed the benchmarks. In East Africa, we need to have a free trade in currency for instance, that is not there. They now had 6 years since the CPA and knew they had to start harmonizing laws, and all but maybe their focus was elsewhere. Politically we want South Sudan to become a member, but they have to be ready. Remember the long ascension path for Rwanda and Burundi? So even if in a year the experts might give [a] thumbs up, the timeframe for readiness will be much longer. South Sudan needs fundamental economic reforms first, financial reforms, the laws in place to protect investments, clarify on so many issues. This is the sad truth, but we will continue to help our brothers and sisters there to eventually reach that goal.”
The untimely news for Juba became public a week before the annual head of state summit of the EAC taking place in Nairobi, Kenya, one of the countries hardest hit by South Sudan’s inability or unwillingness to pay for goods and services supplied, a situation which has caused private Kenyan airline, Jetlink, to halt operations as over US$2 million of unremitted funds are stuck in Juba’s banks while a range of other leading business names have also halted trading with South Sudan unless strictly paid upfront in cash.
The decision last week to reschedule the start of oil production, as a result of ongoing serious differences between Juba and Khartoum, has by the look of it worsened the situation, just as hope for resumed cash flow was rekindled, only to be doused when Juba announced that no oil would flow for the time being until political and security issues between the two countries have been resolved. It is understood that Juba will send an observer mission to the EAC Summit in Nairobi, as will incidentally Somalia, a country also interested in joining the East African Community as and when internal peace has been fully restored and formal trade has taken root again.