The East African Community member states are eyeing the Democratic Republic of Congo market of 86.7 million people and are eager to have the vast country join the bloc.
In what was seen as fast-tracking of the DRC application of June 2019, the recently concluded EAC heads of state summit directed the Council of Ministers to undertake the verification mission to Kinshasa and report to the next summit, while the application of Somalia that has been pending since 2012, was again pushed to the back burner.
Harold Acemah, a retired Ugandan diplomat, said that the proposal to send a mission to DRC is timely and it will help EAC avoid the mistake made with South Sudan which is not yet ready for full membership of the community.
Adherence to Treaty
“DRC has enormous economic and financial potential which is good for EAC, but the political situation in DRC is fluid and fragile. One hopes that membership of EAC will help to stabilise the political situation in DRC,” said Mr Acemah.
However, Mr Acemah says the EAC leadership must put down proper assessment mechanisms in place before DRC is admitted.
“First, the country is unstable, with civil unrest in some parts. The risk of these must be assessed,” he said.
There were precedents with Rwanda, Burundi, and South Sudan’s applications. Kenya, Uganda and Tanzania argued that once admitted, the countries could be persuaded to pursue good governance. It didn’t happen with Burundi and has yet to bear fruit with Juba.
The 1999 EAC Treaty gives conditions for admission including adherence to good governance, democracy, rule of law, observance of human rights and social justice, potential members’ contribution to strengthening integration; geographical proximity to and inter-dependence between it and the partners; establishment and maintenance of a market-driven economy; and social and economic policies being compatible with those of the Community.
DRC shares a long border with Rwanda, Burundi, Uganda, South Sudan and Tanzania.
Since coming to power in 2010, DRC President Félix Tshisekedi has been keen to engage the EAC leaders, despite the country being a member of the Economic Community of Central African States and the Southern African Development Community.
Having been elected as the 2021 African Union Chair in February and consulted on how to solve the issue of the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam, President Tshisekedi has found himself at the centre of eastern Africa economic and political issues.