The Democratic Republic of Congo formally joined the East African Community on April 8, with President Felix Tshisekedi calling for a lasting solution to the conflict ravaging the eastern part of the country.
President Tshisekedi signed the Deed of Accession with the EAC Heads of State Summit chair President Uhuru Kenyatta, as per the requirements of the EAC admission process, at a ceremony held on Friday at State House Nairobi.
Also present were Presidents Yoweri Museveni and Paul Kagame.
The event marked the formal entry of the DRC into the community, having satisfied sections of the treaty.
The DRC has up to September 29, 2022 to undertake internal processes of ratification before depositing the instruments of ratification with the office of the EAC Secretary General.
“We are signing this treaty today to renew our historical attachment with the East African region,” said President Tshisekedi.
“Different aspects have come to my attention during the signing of this Accession Treaty. This is linked to peace as well as internal and external peace and security on our borders, some of which is beyond our community boundaries.”
President Tshisekedi said the DRC expects that the decision to join the bloc will lead to peace in eastern region where frequent conflicts have affected economic development along the border with Uganda, Rwanda and Burundi.
“The people of the DRC not only want to benefit from the community economically but also want commerce and trade to thrive in an environment of peace and security for everyone,” said.
President Tshisekedi reiterated the desire of the DRC for the creation of a new organ in the EAC focused on mining, natural resources and energy and that will be based in the newest member of the bloc.
While acknowledging the importance of the DRC in the region, President Kenyatta said its membership will open doors for expanded trade and cooperation.
“Inclusion of DRC into the community will put EAC in a better position to combine resources to develop the much-needed infrastructure, especially the main transit corridors running from East to West,” said President Kenyatta.
“With the accession of the DRC, our community’s population now stands at about 300 million and our combined gross domestic product (GDP) will now stand at $250 billion.”
“The signing will be followed by the immediate removal of all existing non-tariff barriers as well as limitations on the movement of capital, goods, services and people. This will lead to a major increase in intra-EAC trade.”
President Kagame challenged fellow EAC leaders to now move from mere rhetoric to action in order to foster regional integration.
“We have made many speeches in the recent past. We just have to get down to do the work that is entailed in the statements we have made to our people.
“I am with you all the way to achieve the objective of deeper and wider integration of our community,” President Kagame said.
President Museveni said the admission of the DRC would accelerate prosperity through provision of a broader market for goods and improve regional strategic security.
“The DRC admission is easier because they share common social infrastructure including language unlike in Europe where language barrier is a big problem,” said the Uganda president.
Among internal processes the DRC needs to now undertake for full integration is approval by parliament and ministries and internal organs alignment with the requirements of the EAC pillars, mainly the Customs Union and the Common Market protocols.
DRC’s entry also requires integrating the EAC’s trade infrastructure, intermodal connectivity, one-stop border posts and trade systems.
“The earliest the DRC’s members of Parliament will be able to join the East African Legislative Assembly is by December 2022 when the elections for new EALA members will be made,” said Aden Abdikadir, EALA MP.
This story has been updated.