Kampala, Uganda - South Sudan is likely to be admitted into the East African Community (EAC) in April 2014, a Uganda's top government official said on Monday.
Shem Bageine, Uganda's minister of state for East African affairs, also chair of the EAC Council of Ministers, told reporters that negotiations on the admission of South Sudan have been concluded and a decision is expected to be made by the EAC heads of state in April 2014.
"Negotiations have taken place and we hope that we will be able to take a decision to admit South Sudan into the Community," he said.
"There are criteria that must be fulfilled before a country is admitted into the Community. By and large, South Sudan fulfills many of those criteria and we will look at the report as Council of Ministers and then submit it to the heads of state for final approval," he said.
Regional leaders in November 2012 directed the Council of Ministers to negotiate the admission of South Sudan putting into consideration the provision of the EAC Treaty on the criteria of joining the EAC.
Meanwhile, Bagaine said negotiations on the admission of Somalia into the Community are still ongoing and a final verification report will be submitted to the Council of Ministers in August 2014.
The EAC - which brings together five countries that include Kenya, Tanzania, Uganda, Rwanda, and Burundi - boasts of a combined population of 135.4 million people and a GDP of 84.7 billion U.S. dollars.