- East Africa
Photo The New Times
The Democratic Republic of Congo on Monday, January 17, reaffirmed her willingness to join the East African Community, as negotiations paving way for its admission into the six-member bloc were launched in the Kenyan capital, Nairobi.
This is after regional leaders last month recommended that the negotiations be undertaken with speed and efficiency.
In Nairobi, according to a statement from the EAC, DR Congo’s Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Foreign Affairs, Christophe Lutundula Apala Pen’Apala, said his country was looking forward to increased trade and investment, and strengthened relations with the EAC, adding that her relations with EAC Partner States had largely been at a bilateral level.
Pen’Apala said that DR Congo was keen on cooperating with the EAC for maximum exploitation of both natural and human resources in the region.
As noted, Pen’Apala expressed hope that this would be the last round of negotiations before DR Congo is admitted into the EAC.
10 day window
The Minister said that DR Congo has a big population who can considerably expand the market for the EAC, adding that his country was also in dire need of investors and was therefore offering incentives for entrepreneurs who would like to invest in the country.
The Chairperson of the EAC Council of Ministers who is also Kenya’s Cabinet Secretary for EAC and Regional Development, Adan Mohamed, said that the EAC and DR Congo negotiation teams were expected to conclude their negotiations within 10 days.
Mohamed said that the report of the negotiations would then be presented to the Council which would later submit it to the Summit of EAC Heads of State for consideration.
EAC Secretary General, Peter Mathuki, said: “Once this phase is successfully concluded, it shall pave the way for the accession phase which literally concludes the admission process.”
Pen’Apala noted that DR Congo faces security challenges in the eastern part of the country, and was therefore keen on tackling these challenges together with the EAC.
The Congolese Minister disclosed that his country had embarked on a national programme of reconstruction in various sectors including infrastructure, agriculture, energy and environmental conservation. He said that DR Congo had the world’s second largest natural ecosystem in the Congo Forest and was keen on preserving this system from wanton destruction to mitigate the effects of climate change.
The EAC Summit on December 22, 2021, directed regional ministers to expeditiously undertake negotiations with the DR Congo in accordance with the bloc’s procedures for admission of new members.
The procedure for admission of the DR Congo entails four stages: a verification exercise; negotiations with the country on its admission to the EAC directed by Summit; eventual admission; and the final deposition of the instrument of acceptance of the terms of admission by the country within six months of its admission to the Community.
Mid last year, a verification team was deployed in the country and it submitted its report to the Council of Ministers last December. What follows now includes: negotiations at senior, PS and ministerial levels between January and February.
The next step will be the consideration of the negotiations report by the extraordinary Council of Ministers, by March.
If all goes according to plan, next will be the consideration of the recommendations of Council and decision on admission of DR Congo into the EAC by the Extra Ordinary Summit, by April 11, 2022.
So far, the EAC has undertaken seven out of the 10 agreed steps towards the admission of the DR Congo into the bloc.
Mathuki noted that DR Congo’s intention to join the Community is not by default as the vast country shares borders with five EAC Partner States – Tanzania, Burundi, Rwanda, Uganda and South Sudan.
Leading the negotiation teams is Dr. Alice Yalla for EAC and Prof. Serge Tshibangu Kabeya for DR Congo.
The role of the negotiations with the DR Congo is to establish its readiness to comply with the set six criteria as stipulated under the EAC Treaty and the bloc’s procedure for admission. The six criteria include: acceptance of the Community as set out in the Treaty; adherence to universally acceptable principles of good governance, democracy, the rule of law, observance of human rights and social justice; potential contribution to the strengthening of integration within the region; geographical proximity to and inter-dependence between the foreign country and partner states; establishment and maintenance of a market driven economy; and social and economic policies being compatible with those of the bloc.
The negotiations will also take into account the country profile of the DR Congo and establish, among others, its level of compatibility with the EAC's stages of development in trade liberalization and development; co-operation in investment and industrial development; coordination in monetary and financial matters; development of infrastructure and services; development of human resources; and the development of agriculture and natural resources.
The whole process started when Congolese President Felix Tshisekedi on June 8, 2019, wrote to the then EAC Chairperson, President Paul Kagame, expressing his country’s wish to be a member of the regional bloc.
By DR Congo joining the six-member bloc, it is expected to bolster the bloc’s economic potential through various ways including opening the corridor from the Indian Ocean to the Atlantic Ocean, as well as North to South, hence expanding the economic potential of the region. - James Karuhanga, The New Times