Kenya's President Uhuru Kenyatta wants the East African Community to expand to include Central, Northern and Southern African states.
The Kenyan leader, who is the current EAC chair, wants this expansion to form his legacy at the regional bloc. He is proposing some amendments to the Treaty establishing the Community to accommodate new members, said Adan Mohamed, Cabinet Secretary in the Ministry of EAC and Regional Development.
“Since Kenya took over the EAC chair in February 2021, there are a few things that President Kenyatta has given his strong views on. One of them expansion of our market so that goods and services across East Africa access bigger and wider markets. It is in that context that the admission of the Democratic Republic of Congo is being looked at,” said the CS, who chairs the EAC Council of Ministers.
President Kenyatta took over as the EAC chair from Rwanda’s Paul Kagame during a Heads of State summit meeting held virtually on February 27, 2021.
Mr Mohamed told The EastAfrican this week that DR Congo is likely to be admitted before the end of this year, or during the first quarter of 2022, using recommendations of a report of the verification mission carried out by the EAC Secretariat.
The other countries on the waiting list are Somalia, Ethiopia and Sudan.
“But, as and when there is a need, the [Heads of State] Summit can meet and make the decision,” said Mr Mohamed.
The expansion plan, if followed through, would trigger amendments to the 1999 Treaty Establishing the EAC.
“The one major issue we hope to resolve during this period is to address issues that have been affecting the smooth operation of the Community,” said Mohamed. “This community and the rules that govern it were established when there were only three countries, Kenya, Uganda and Tanzania. And since then we have moved to six countries — potentially seven — and growing.”
President Kenyatta is also keen to have the amendments to the sections of Treaty on membership, partner states’ financial obligations and contributions, decision-making processes, and the Common Market Protocol.
But the decisions would only be made possible if all the EAC partner states agree in the next Summit scheduled at the end of this year.
According to the minister, President Kenyatta also wants to see the border post blockages between Uganda and Rwanda, Burundi and Rwanda, Uganda and South Sudan resolved.
“There have been some incidents of insecurity reported in South Sudan. The EAC is trying its best to secure the highway leading to Juba and other areas where the trucks are moving,” he said.
“One of the main things that President Kenyatta wants is to make sure that as EAC we are united. Any problem that affects member states is likely to undermine regional integration,” said Mohamed. “For example the sanctions on Burundi are some of the key issues that he has spoken about very strongly, as it will undermine the integration process.”
Mr Kenyatta has also emphasised the need for free movement of people across the EAC.
“Kenya waived visa requirements for South Sudan as a result of that commitment.”
Kenya also wants to see the gathering of views on the EAC fourth pillar, the Political Federation, prioritised. Other EAC pillars include the Customs Union, and Monetary Union.
“Financing is another issue. We need to review whether the model for financing the Community’s activities where previously partners paid equal amounts needs to be reviewed based on the ability to pay,” said Mr Mohamed.