Intergovernmental Authority on Development and Why Regional Integration in Africa Is Desirable

Unexpectedly, I received volumes of comments, questions and compliments in response to a piece published in this column earlier in the month. The vast majority of comments indicated that most of us are not aware of the happenings in the Horn of Africa.

I was left puzzled that some people did not know that Sudan, which is distinct from South Sudan, is actually part of the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD), a regional integration community of the Horn of Africa states comprising Kenya, Ethiopia, Uganda, Djibouti, South Sudan and, of course, Sudan. In spite of all its challenges, IGAD represents the value of cooperation on the African continent.

The current IGAD in eastern Africa was established in 1996 to supersede the Intergovernmental Authority on Drought and Development (IGADD), which was created in 1986 and existed for about a decade. IGAD is unique in two ways. First, it emerged out of a need to deal with drought and famine, which have become synonymous with the region.

IGAD has worked towards curbing intra and inter-state conflicts and disputes with a view to attaining lasting peace in that part of the continent, which is the raison d’etre of international relations as a field of study and practice.

The United Nations itself emerged out of the need to prevent war and promote peace. Hence the latest Summit of IGAD Heads of State and Government, held in Nairobi on March 25 deserve special attention.

The 30th Extraordinary Summit took place on the sidelines of a special IGAD summit on Somali refugees and returnees, making it one of the greatest innovations governmental institutions have attempted in recent years. Chaired by Ethiopia’s Hailemariam Desalegn, the summit was attended by presidents Uhuru Kenyatta of Kenya, Ismail Omar Guelleh (Djibouti), Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed (Somalia) and Salva Kiir (South Sudan). Also in attendance was Sudanese Vice President Hasabo Mohamed Abdul Rahman.

There were comprehensive discussions following updates and briefings from the President of South Sudan and the Vice President of Sudan. The famine in South Sudan was particularly intriguing and leaders expressed concern about the worsening humanitarian situation in the world’s newest nation.

Consequently, two things are worth noting. That the Vice President of Sudan was able hand over 10,000 tonnes of food and humanitarian supplies from Sudan’s President Omar Al-Bashir to South Sudan was both welcomed and commended by IGAD. Also, that Sudan has fully implemented the opening of a humanitarian corridor as agreed with South Sudan in a memorandum of understanding signed in 2014 makes Khartoum a mature polity.

So far, three batches of relief food from Sudan and international actors, led by the World Food Programme, have been dispatched from Sudan through El-Obeid, capital of North Kordofan State, to needy populations in South Sudan. Indeed, this is what regional integration should imply. The Sudans have shown the way and the rest of us should emulate them.

So, what can the EAC, whose members includes three IGAD states, namely Kenya, Uganda and South Sudan, should learn from the Horn of Africa? I guess many things. First, as the regional economic integration theory requires, cooperation must start with communities in the neighbourhood.

The 2011 secession notwithstanding, the Sudans are taking full advantage of proximity to make headway.

Secondly, the EAC must learn to make use of the principle of complementarity, another important pillar in integration.

Where Kenya’s strength is evidently industrialisation, Tanzania should seek to choose something different and unique in the region such as food production to the extent of possibly feeding the rest of the EAC region. Similar specialisation can be emulated by regional partners in the EAC.

In terms of lessons for regional bodies, IGAD has demonstrated impartiality and objectivity in policies, decisions and programmes. This is another leaf the EAC should borrow from IGAD’s book. The fact that the Djibouti-based IGAD secretariat has continued to coordinate policies and programmes amid political differences and war in the region is an important lesson for the rest of us in eastern Africa.

Closer to home, the EAC’s current secretary-general, Liberat Mfumukeko, has been accused of taking sides in the ongoing political crisis in his country, Burundi.

This is partly to blame for the painfully slow progress in peace talks involving rivals in the Burundi crisis. IGAD executive secretary Mahboub Maalim would do well to regularly to compare notes with his EAC opposite number.

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Source: The Citizen

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