Burundi’s President Pierre Nkurunziza’s curious response to Botswana President and Chairman of Southern African Development Community (SADC) Ian Khama’s criticism has regional leaders scratching their heads. Two months after Khama slammed the Burundi leaders for plunging his country into anarchy by seeking a third term in office, Nkurinziza wrote to the SADC chairperson requesting that Burundi becomes a member of the regional block. Khama had told reporters after assuming the chairmanship of SADC that “It doesn’t matter how you got there. At the end of the day, once you sit in the office and you assume all the functions and duties of that office, you are serving your term. In my opinion, he (Nkurunziza) has served two terms.” According to a report compiled by SADC secretariat a copy of which has been passed to Sunday Standard, “through a letter dated 17 October, 2015, the President of the Republic of Burundi, His Excellency Pierre Nkurunziza requested the Chair of SADC and President of the Republic of Botswana, His Excellency Lieutenant General Seretse Khama Ian Khama to submit its application for membership to SADC.” Reports indicate that the European Union this month suspended aid to the government of Burundi government citing the political crisis that has claimed more than 400 lives and forced more than 240,000 people to flee to neighboring countries. The crisis was triggered by Nkurunziza’s decision last year to seek a third term, despite objections that doing so violated the country’s Constitution. The SADC report states that “in accordance with the SADC Criteria and Procedures for Admission of New Members, the Chair of SADC has authorised the Executive Secretary Stergomena Lawrence-Tax to: circulate the Republic of Burundi’s application to all SADC Member States; and commence the relevant assessment procedures to establish Burundi’s eligibility with a view to facilitating a report to the next Summit in August 2016.”
The SADC procedures also require that “within one year of submitting the application, the Secretariat will assess the candidate on the basis of the criteria and make appropriate recommendations to Council as to whether the candidate should be given ‘candidate ‘membership status for a period of one year without any obligation by SADC to accept the candidate as a full member.” The procedure also require that “on the basis of [the assessment], and the criteria for admission of new members, the Executive Secretary shall table the application at the meeting of the SADC Council of Ministers, which will make appropriate recommendations to Summit for consideration and approval.”
Lawrence-Tax has since circulated Burundi’s application to all SADC Member States, and will start the process to assess Burundi’s eligibility to become a member of SADC with a view to facilitate a report to the August 2016 SADC Council. The report also states that at the meeting held in Gaborone, Botswana, in August, 2015, considered the request by the Union of Comoros to become a member of SADC.
In deliberating on the request in accordance with the SADC criteria and procedures for the admission of new members, directed the Secretariat to take the necessary measures to assess the suitability of the Union of Comoros to join SADC and report back on the matter to Council in March 2016.
In compliance with its decision, the Lawrence-Tax wrote to the President of the Union of Comoros proposing a visit by a delegation of the SADC Secretariat to assess Comoros suitability to become a Member of SADC.
The Secretariat mission to Comoros was scheduled to take place in February 2016. Consultations between the Secretariat and Comoros are ongoing, and a report will be submitted in August 2016.