South Sudan may be able to avoid suspension from the East African Community (EAC) after paying a fraction of the annual membership fees it owes to the regional bloc.
Earlier this month, Ventures Africa reported that South Sudan faces the risk of having its membership in the EAC suspended after becoming the bloc’s largest debtor since joining in 2016.
All member countries in the EAC are required to pay $8 million as contributions annually. For over three years, South Sudan has remitted $3 million only and as of September 13, the country owed $27 million – this year’s financial obligations plus arrears.
The Secretariat had given Juba a grace period of 18 months to pay but the country failed to meet the deadline. The EAC Council of Ministers then approved a resolution to sanction and append South Sudan from the regional bloc if it failed to meet its annual obligations.
The plan was to invoke Article 143 or 146 to impose sanctions on Juba at a summit next month. “If South Sudan fails to pay its financial commitments by the end of this month when the heads of state meet in November, they may decide to impose sanctions on us,” said Kim Gai Ruot, a South Sudanese representative to the East African Legislative Assembly (EALA).
The young nation has now made a payment of $3 million of the $27 million it owes the EAC Secretariat, which was confirmed by Mou Mou Athian, the under-secretary for the bloc in South Sudan’s Ministry of Trade and Industry.
Athian told The East African in an interview last week that the money was received by the EAC Secretariat while he was still in Arusha from South Sudan’s Ministry of Finance and Economic Planning.
According to him, the EAC Secretary-General, Libérat Mfumukeko, personally confirmed that the payment. Without giving details as to when the balance of arrears will be paid, Athian revealed that a plan was in place on how the debt will be fully settled.
“A debt of $24 million still remains but a schedule on how the payment will be made has been drawn,” said Athian. “I don’t have the details at the moment but the Finance Ministry’s planning department should know.”
There are indications Juba could be pardoned at the summit next month after settling part of its debt and considering the young nation’s political and economic issues. Apart from the EAC, South Sudan reportedly owes other regional, international and global bodies it belongs to, including the African Union (AU).