Juba is beginning its first ever term as the chair of the East African Community (EAC) with no debt and a promise to keep it that way, after the heads of state summit waived part of the debt it owed to the bloc in unremitted contributions.
South Sudan’s President Salva Kiir, speaking during the EAC heads of state summit in Arusha on Friday, after taking over leadership of the bloc, said they have cleared their outstanding debt of $15 million, after the summit waived over half of the $36 million arrears it had.
“I sincerely appreciate the EAC heads of state for waving the arears accrued to South Sudan,” President Kiir said. “From now onwards, South Sudan commits to remit its required annual contribution on timely basis.”
Kiir explained that they had lagged behind in contributing to the EAC kitty – which helps with the day-to-day running of the bloc – because of their internal “challenges of peace implementation”, which also impeded their full integration into the community since accession in 2016.
“As a partner state, South Sudan is fully aware of its treaty obligations, particularly on harmonization of laws and policies. We are equally aware of our required obligations for the functioning of the community,” Kiir said.
Before taking over the leadership, South Sudan had the most pending dues to the EAC and had been viewed to lack interest in matters of the bloc as it is also yet to harmonise its customs policies and laws.
Currently, all the EAC member states now have some arrears in annual membership fees, with Burundi currently leading the pack with a debt of $15.5 million, and the Democratic Republic of Congo, which has not contributed anything since joining, owes about $14.7 million.
Rwanda currently owes the bloc $7.3 million; Uganda $6.1 million, Tanzania $123,694, and Kenya owes only $20. The delayed remittance of the annual contributions has left the EAC struggling to run its operations, forcing overreliance on donor funding.
Ways to ensure sustainable financing of the bloc was one of the agenda in Friday’s heads of state summit, and the leaders decided that henceforth, 65 percent of the contributions to the community will be equal from all countries, while 35 percent will be contributed based on assessed ability.
“The summit further directed the council of ministers to pursue strategic spending rationalisation measures, institutional strengthening, and strict sanctions for the defaulting partner states,” read a communique after the 23rd heads of state summit.
Source: The East African