By Timo Shihepo
Windhoek - Burundi’s quest to become the 17th member of the Southern African Development Community (SADC) will finally be decided this year but the eastern African country’s chances are slim after it failed to meet the admission requirements for two years.
Burundi, alongside Comoros, applied to be SADC members early 2017, and while the latter’s application was accepted, the former is having a hard time joining the regional bloc.
Burundi’s application was not even discussed at last year’s SADC Summit –where Comoros’ application was fully accepted.
Much of the hard time is attributed to the fact that Burundi first needed to resolve the internal political instability that President Pierre Nkurunziza provoked in 2015 when he took an apparently unconstitutional third term in office.
An assessment mission, which was supposed to be carried out in Burundi in May 2018 by SADC also failed to materialise after the Burundian government asked for the mission to be postponed.
The government said it was necessary to postpone the mission because the country was conducting a national referendum on 17 May 2018.
A new date for the mission is yet to be agreed with the government of Burundi.
“There are quite a number of things that Burundi still has to work on for its application to be accepted,” Tanzania’s foreign affairs minister, Augustine Mahiga is quoted in a SADC document seen by The Southern Times.
Burundi’s application is set to be discussed at the Ministerial Committee of the Organ (MCO) for Politics, Defence and Security meeting to be held before the 39th SADC Summit in August.
According to a SADC Secretariat manuscript, the new date for the assessment mission will be agreed upon with the government of Burundi, and progress will be reported in August 2019.
The Ministerial Committee of the Organ can only make recommendations to the Summit through the council of ministers.
“SADC Summit of Heads of State will have the final word on the matter,” SADC executive secretary Dr Stergomena Lawrence Tax said.
SADC will be careful when assessing Burundi’s application after the regional bloc was left with egg on its face when it admitted troubled Comoros, which is still fighting political instabilities.
To avoid similar incidents in future, the SADC Secretariat has started reviewing the criteria for admitting new members into SADC. As a starting point, in May 2018, the Secretariat completed a desk review and analysis of the accession criteria of six regional economic communities in Africa.
These are Arab Maghreb Union (UMA), Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA), East African Community (EAC), Economic Community of Central African States (ECCAS), Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), and Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD).
It also said that it is comparing its criteria to those of the European Union and that of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations.
One criterion, which has the ability to derail Burundi's bid to join SADC, says the applicant country must show the commonality of political, economic, social and cultural systems with the systems of the SADC region.
It also says the country should be observing the principles of democracy, human rights, good governance and the rule of law in accordance with the African Charter of Human and People's Rights.