Over a dozen Al-Shabab fighters killed in US airstrike
The president of Somalia, Hassan Sheikh Mohamud, asks the EAC leaders to expedite his country's membership process as East African leaders gather for the EAC summit.
NAIROBI, Kenya - Leaders of the East African Community (EAC) on Thursday stressed the need for closer ties between the seven-member regional bloc to bolster trade and collective economic growth.
Top officials of Kenya, Tanzania, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Burundi, Rwanda, South Sudan, and Uganda met in the northern Tanzanian city of Arusha for the first in-person EAC summit in three years.
They underscored the importance of proper infrastructure to accelerate regional integration and development, while reaffirming their commitment to implement the EAC Common Market Protocol, read an EAC statement.
Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta said the EAC will never be able to achieve its targets until there is free movement of people and goods in the region.
“That is why infrastructure is critical if we are to achieve our objective of being a common market,” he said.
“We are not adequately interlinked, and because we are not a common market, because we operate separately – which is what some people want us to be – we remain markets for other regions.”
Kenyatta stressed that “value addition to national products was key,” warning that without that “the region would essentially be exporting jobs as is now the case,” read the statement.
‘Somalia belongs to East Africa’
Somalia’s President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud, who attended the summit as a special guest, urged the EAC leaders to speed up his country’s membership process.
“Somalia belongs to East Africa. There is no one country among the seven countries sitting here that Somalia is not linked to by business, by community by any other means … people from all these countries are helping Somalia get back on its own feet,” he said.
He praised the EAC for having “many sacrifices” for Somalia, which first applied to join the bloc in 2014.
"To repay that back, we need to be part of this community. Now Somalia is right at the corner, and we believe that we have great potential to contribute to this community,” said Mohamud.
Other leaders who attended the event were Tanzanian President Samia Suluhu Hassan, Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni, Burundi’s President Evariste Ndayishimiye, DR Congo Prime Minister Jean-Michel Sama Lukonde and South Sudan’s Foreign Affairs and International Relations Minister Barnaba Marial Benjamin.
Al-Shabaab continues to pose a threat to the country's security and entire East Africa as the group raids Kenya, Ethiopia, and Uganda.