DR Congo confronts an additional obstacle in its pursuit of EAC membership.
The Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) will have to wait a little longer for admission to the East African Community (EAC) after the region’s heads of state and government authorize more negotiations to unify standards.
Following the virtual 18th Extraordinary Summit on Wednesday, Heads of State stated they had approved ministers to begin another round of negotiations with the DRC on how the country may be accepted to the union.
“The summit received and considered the council’s report on the verification mission on the admission of the DRC to the East African Community and directed the council to expeditiously begin and conclude negotiations with the DRC for admission…and report to the next summit,” the bloc said in a communiqué issued after the meeting, which was presided over by Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta.
The accession of the Democratic Republic of the Congo was assumed to be accomplished when the Council of Ministers announced last month that they had completed vetting and approved admittance. During an emergency meeting on November 22 in Arusha, Tanzania, the EAC Council of Ministers, led by Adan Mohamed, Kenya’s EAC Affairs and Regional Development Cabinet Secretary, granted the go-ahead.
The Ministers visited the DRC between June 26 and July 5 to assess the country’s compliance with the Treaty for the Establishment of the EAC. Following Kenya, Uganda, Rwanda, Burundi, Tanzania, and South Sudan, their proposal meant that the central African nation would become the bloc’s seventh member.
Except for Kenya, all existing members have a border with the DRC, making it a geographically important partner.
The nation, which has the potential to become the biggest member both in terms of land and population (80 million), is seen as an attractive market for Kenyan firms.
Kenyan banks and airlines have lately expanded their presence in Kenya. For example, in September, low-cost airline Jambojet inaugurated direct Nairobi-Goma flights, alleviating the stress of travel for entrepreneurs traveling between the two nations.
Equity Bank, one of Kenya’s top lenders, has also set up shop in the Central African nation.
However, the DRC’s admission will need a closer examination of its legislation, particularly those governing banking and money laundering, to guarantee compliance with EAC standards.
Based on merit, the nation will be required to send lawmakers to the East African Legislative Assembly (EALA), propose judges to the East African Court of Justice, and send civil officials to the secretariat. This will require the DRC to pass some local legislation governing how these people are nominated.
Because French is the official language, the EAC will need to change its rules of engagement to make French the official language of the bloc’s business.
The DRC will also be required to provide timelines for joining the Customs Union and Common Market protocols, which include the One Network Area, which allows mobile phone users to receive calls for free even when roaming in the region, as well as make calls at subsidized rates when roaming.
This was the first summit since February, when Tanzanian President John Pombe Magufuli participated before his death later that month. Leaders virtually assembled around the subject of increasing integration and broadening cooperation.
Tanzanian President Samia Suluhu attended for the first time since taking office on Wednesday.
Other leaders in attendance included Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni, Rwandan President Paul Kagame, Burundian Vice President Prosper Bazombanza, who was representing President Évariste Ndayishimiye, and Mr. Deng Alor Kuol, South Sudan’s Minister for East African Community Affairs, who was representing President Salva Kiir.
They were gathering, however, against the backdrop of simmering squabbles between Kenya and Uganda on one side and Rwanda and Uganda on the other. Meanwhile, due to its strategic position, DRC has piqued the interest of all members.
“I reaffirm the Summit’s commitment to the EAC integration process.” “We are certain that this is an excellent vehicle for the economic progress and prosperity of the people of East Africa,” added President Kenyatta.
“It is noteworthy that work is moving well in the implementation of the four pillars of EAC integration, namely the customs union, the common market, the monetary union, and finally the political federation,” he said in his opening remarks before the panel proceeded into closed-door session.