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Somalia will become eighth member of the regional bloc this year

Mogadishu's long journey to join EAC nears completion with support of Kenya – despite the two countries' ongoing maritime dispute

Somalia is likely to join the East African Community before the end of 2023, despite its long-running dispute with neighbouring Kenya over their shared maritime border.

EAC Secretary General Peter Mathuki said that negotiations on its membership terms would run until early September ahead of accession. Somalia's application was verified at an EAC summit in Burundi in June. Membership will mean some legislative changes to align Somalia with the bloc's common external tariff and EAC officials say that regional trade and businesses will be among the main beneficiaries.

A report on the timeline for Somalia harmonising its regulations to the EAC's is then set to be approved at an EAC summit in November or December.

A previous application by Mogadishu in 2012 was rejected and there is a sense of grievance that South Sudan, which applied in 2011, was approved as a member in 2016. South Sudan has since been one of the main laggards in paying its contributions to the EAC's common budget.

The maritime dispute between Kenya and Somalia was decided in Mogadishu's favour in October 2021 by the International Court of Justice (ICJ). But the decision was rejected by Nairobi and relations between the two governments are poor.

Yet Kenya supports Somalian accession to the EAC and the issue is unlikely to affect the Mogadishu's accession negotiations (Dispatches, 19/10/21, International Court backs most of Mogadishu's claims to an oil and gas-rich zone in the Indian Ocean). Kenya could seek to use the EAC as a mediator on the maritime dispute (AC Dispatches, 8/8/23, Maritime boundary clash threatens bilateral relations at critical time).

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