Somalia Progresses Integration into the East African Community

Sébastien Gray
Sébastien Gray
Sébastien is a published journalist and historicist with over six years of experience in freelance journalism and research. His primary expertise is in African conflict and politics, with additional specialization in Israeli/Palestinian and Armenia/Azerbaijan conflicts. Sébastien serves as the deputy desk chief for Africa.

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Somalia has paid $7.8 million to the East African Community (EAC), satisfying its necessary contributions to the bloc for the 2024/2025 fiscal year, and also becoming one of only two nations in the eight member bloc to have fulfilled their monetary obligations.

First Steps Towards Integration

Somalia officially became the eighth member of the EAC on March 4th of this year. As a member of the EAC, Somalia has a series of issues to resolve and tasks to complete in order to further its integration into the bloc. One such issue, necessary financial contributions, was satisfied last month when Somalia sent $7,853,071 to the EAC, prior to the beginning of the 2024/2025 fiscal year.

Notably, this puts Somalia above several other members of the bloc in this manner.

The Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), the EAC’s other most recent member who joined the EAC in 2022 and has yet to contribute any funds to the EAC and its budget. As such, as of June the DRC owes the EAC $14.7 million, followed by Burundi, which owes $11.2 million, and South Sudan, which owes $8.6 million.

Rwanda, Uganda, and Tanzania’s outstanding contributions are all below $1 million. Kenya, however, has fully contributed its budgetary obligations, meaning that Kenya and Somalia are the only two nations in the EAC to do so.

Somalian President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud pictured with Kenyan President William Ruto in the State House in Nairobi, Kenya, on April 11th, 2024 (Photo from PCS).

The full contribution, within the context of how recently Somalia joined the bloc and the fact that the DRC, who joined two years prior, has yet to contribute seemingly shows that Somalia is taking their entry into the bloc seriously. Still, Somalia has a number of hurdles before it can integrate into the bloc further.

The Issues Facing Somalia

The EAC has a customs union and a common market across all member states. This enhances trade between them, and allows for ease of travel, employment immigration, attending foreign schools within the bloc, and several other economic benefits.

Somalia as a member of the bloc must take action to join the customs union and the common market, as well as align a number of aspects of its legal system to the rest of the bloc. In theory, this task would not be terribly difficult. However, Somalia’s border with Kenya, the only border they share with the EAC, has been closed for several years, making economic integration difficult.

When Somalia originally applied to join the EAC in 2012, it was not admitted due to instability, both in the weakness of its political institutions and the risk posed by the Al-Shabaab insurgency. This insurgency locked down the Somalia-Kenya border, as Kenya, which continued to suffer several deadly attacks from Al-Shabaab, attempted to prevent a major cross-border spillover of Al-Shabaab. The insurgency’s access to the border further complicated the prospect of Somalia’s entry into the EAC.

In 2023, Somalia and Kenya announced hopes to reopen the approximately 800-kilometre border. However, more recently, Kenya’s Interior Principal Secretary, Raymond Omollo, announced in April that the border would remain closed for the foreseeable future, citing the challenges of properly securing the border.

Kenyan Interior Principal Secretary, Raymond Omollo, pictured addressing media in Nairobi on March 4th, 2024 (Photo from Billy Ogada/NMG).

Secretary Omollo established no specific timeline for the opening of the border, only stating that “maybe after a few months to almost a year we will be able to make these border points [between Kenya and Somalia] fully functional,” with the timeline largely being dependent upon any security issues that may arise from the withdrawal of the African Transition Mission in Somalia (ATMIS), an African Union security force that is stationed in Somalia in order to assist the state in reestablishing security and control over its territory.

The border has yet to open since Secretary Omollo made these statements, with a timeline still having not been provided.

The closure of the border, while not severing trade between Somalia and the EAC, does significantly reduce it and its potential. In order to properly integrate, the border will need to be opened.

Similar Issues

The border between Kenya and Somalia is not the only border within the EAC that is closed. The border between Rwanda and Burundi has been closed since January.

Burundi closed the border after an attack was carried out against a Burundian village on the border with the DRC in December. The attack, according to the government, killed 20 people: 19 civilians, 12 of which were children, and one policeman who attempted to halt the attack.

The attack was carried out by RED-Tabara, a Burundian rebel group that is based in the eastern DRC. Burundi has accused Rwanda of supporting RED-Tabara, an accusation that Rwanda has continually denied. RED-Tabara denied that civilians were killed in the attack, instead claiming to have killed nine military servicemen and one policeman.

The Burundian Government statement detailing the attack.

The closure of the border significantly harmed trade in the region, and underlines the significant problem of tensions between member states and the permeating effects that ongoing insurgencies have on integration.