By William Madouk
South Sudan’s President Salva Kiir Mayardit has taken over as new chairperson of the East African Community.
President Kiir will serve in the top leadership position of the regional bloc, responsible for overseeing and guiding its affairs for the next year.
This is the first time a South Sudanese leader has chaired the EAC bloc since joining the regional bloc nearly seven years ago.
Kiir took over from, President Evariste Ndayhimiye of Burundi yesterday during the EAC Head of States summit in Arusha, Tanzania.
“For the change of the bureau, the summit decided the Republic of [South] Sudan assume chairmanship of the community and the democratic republic of Congo to be the rapporteur,” announced the Burundian president Ndayhimiye, the ongoing chairperson.
“I would like to hand over the chairmanship to my brother Salva Kiir,” he announced.
The Burundian President thanked the EAC head of state for entrusting him to lead the esteemed EAC, regional bloc.
“It has been a great honor to steer the most vibrant and most integrated regional economic community in the African Union in spite of the global challenges,” Ndayhimiye noted.
“The citizens of our community are looking to us to fast track and implement the program and projects that will continue to transform our lives,” he stressed.
He highlighted that trade between EAC member states increased by 14.4 percent to 74.1 billion US dollars in 2022 from 65.3 billion US dollars in 2021.
“Total intra-African community trade grew by 11.2 percent to 10.9 billion US dollars in 2022 from 9.8 billion US dollars in 2021.”
The increase is attributed to strong collaboration with partner states to promote EAC trade, the timely resurrection of no-tariff barrier, enhanced trade, and facilitation.
Meanwhile, the new EAC chairman, Salva Kiir Mayardit said South Sudan strongly believes in the ability of EAC to address its common challenges.
He acknowledged that South Sudan has been struggling to pay its membership and other required fees but vowed to clear its dues on a timely basis.
“From now onward South Sudan commits to remit its required annual contributions on a timely basis,” Kiir assured.
“On regional peace and security; our collective responsibility to insist [that] the solution to the Congolese crisis lies with the government of the DR Congo and opposition groups.”
He stressed that “EAC should remain committed to the Nairobi process for peace in Eastern DRC, I call upon the summit to find an appropriate mechanism to support this ongoing political process.”
Edmund Yakani, the executive director for Community Empowerment for Progress Organization (CEPO), congratulated President Kiir for taking over the role of chair of EAC.
“This role is of great importance to South Sudan in terms of strengthening regional integration since South Sudan has showcased a good example of citizens integration markets across the country,” said Yakani.
He added that citizens from EAC are joining the South Sudan market without discrimination or bias.
“This time round since President Salva Kiir is the chair of EAC, EAC should put extra efforts in making peace and stability prevail in South Sudan,” the activist noted.
Mr. Yakani who is also the chair of the East African Civil Society organization forum appealed to President Kiir to open political and civic space as well as strengthen civil society’s role in advocating for community peace and stability.