By Lovemore Ranga Mataire, Pretoria, South Africa
THE Union of Comoros and Burundi’s applications for SADC membership are imminent following no objections passed by the SADC Council of Ministers Meeting at the regional body’s 37th Heads of States and Government.
According to minutes of the SADC Council of Ministers Meeting held on 15-16 August 2017, the Union of Comoros and Burundi applications are part of 75 key decisions agreed upon by the ministers.
Decision number 12 which is about the application of Union of Comoros and the Republic of Burundi, states that: “No objection with the decision. Will react on the views of Member States.”
The council had been requested to recommend to summit to approve admission of Comoros as a Member of SADC. However, in the case of Burundi, the council noted that based on assessment findings, Burundi does not fully meet the criteria to become a member of SADC and the Secretariat was directed to undertake a reassessment mission to the country. The council also noted that the review of the criteria for future admission of members to SADC was ongoing and would be submitted to the next Ministers Council in 2018.
There was also a recommendation to the summit that new applications for admission be considered after the review of the criteria for admission to SADC has been finalised.
Burundi and Comoros have both been knocking on the door of the club for many a long period. And it appears SADC is now softening its earlier stance.
Last year, a SADC ministerial committee decided at a meeting in Maputo to send a SADC Secretariat delegation to Burundi to assess its eligibility to join. The secretariat had already done a similar due diligence investigation of Comoros’s application.
The ministerial committee met again in February this year to discuss the secretariat’s reports on both countries.
The matter was referred for memberships to a special sub-committee of SADC foreign ministers.
Earlier sentiments were that Burundi needed “to put its house in order” before being admitted.
Ever since President Pierre Nkurunzinza pushed through his third term in office, Burundi has appeared reluctant on East Africa Community matters, boycotting East African Legislative Assembly meetings over its differences with Rwanda and sitting out on the regional body’s Intra-Burundi Dialogue over the involvement of political rivals.
Burundi neighbours Tanzania, a member of SADC and co-member of Burundi’s proximate international organisation, the EAC. Comoros lies in the Indian Ocean, between Seychelles, Madagascar and Mozambique – all SADC members.
Burundi already enjoys good relations with other southern African countries like South Africa, Angola and Namibia.