By Fidel Amakye Owusu

1. Last year the Democratic Republic of Congo, the second largest and the fourth-most populated country in Africa joined the East African Community (EAC).

2. Before that, the naturally endowed country was (and still is) a member of the Economic Community of Central African States (ECCAS) and the Southern African Development Community (SADC). It, therefore, occupied the unique position of a single country belonging to three of the six main geopolitical organizations in Africa.

3. Sometimes called regional economic communities, these are the Economic Community of West African States, SADC, EAC, ECCAS, Arab Maghreb Union and the Intergovernmental Authority on Development.

4. On Friday, it was announced Somalia has become the newest member of the EAC. This followed a visit by the Somali President to Arusha—where the EAC headquarters is located—earlier in the week.

5. And so what?

6. Somalia has for a long time had an interest in joining the regional organization. While countries have different reasons for joining organizations, the case of Somalia joining the EAC has been due to some push and pull factors the discussion of which is important.

8. What are these?

9. Firstly, a major pull factor has been the relative stability the EAC has, as compared with some other organizations in Africa. Except for South Sudan where factional interests have complicated political stability. Most member states of the EAC are stable. Kenya, Tanzania, and in recent decades, Uganda and Rwanda have had good stability. This is attractive to a country committed to rebuilding itself.

10. Secondly, the impressive economic development and robust market of the EAC, have also created a vortex that has pulled Somalia into its fold. Currently, the economies of Uganda, Kenya, Tanzania and Rwanda are one of the most promising on the continent. This could help the Horn of Africa country achieve its economic goals.

10. Furthermore, Somalia stands to achieve better security with the EAC. Last year, when the DRC joined the EAC, it almost immediately saw some security results. Kenya unprecedentedly dispatched a stabilization force to Eastern DRC. This, while not a final solution, has helped avoid the worst.

11. Some push factors have included rivalry, internal instability and interstate tensions among member states of the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD). For decades, Somalia has belonged to the Horn of Africa’s regional organization. Ethiopia, Eritrea, Sudan and others are also members. Interestingly, South Sudan and Kenya have dual membership of the EAC and IGAD.

12. Most importantly, the improved relations between Kenya (the largest economy of the EAC) and Somalia have enabled the membership of the latter. The welfare of ordinary Somalis should be prioritized in this new relationship.

By Fidel Amakye Owusu – International Relations and Security Analyst and Writer

Article Reproduced with Permission from Fidel Amakye Owusu

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