President Félix Tshisekedi of the Democratic Republic of Congo has applied for his country to become a member of the East African Community (EAC), a regional grouping of six countries.
Tshisekedi sent the application to his Rwandan counterpart, President Paul Kagame, who is the current Chairperson of EAC.
According to President Tshisekedi’s letter, the need for his push for his country to join the bloc was necessitated by the growing trade volume between individual member states of the EAC and DR Congo. EAC comprises of Rwanda, Burundi, Tanzania, Kenya, Uganda and South Sudan.
DR Congo shares border with four of the six member EAC states.
Speaking to The New Times, Olivier Nduhungirehe, the Minister of State for EAC affairs, said that Kigali on Tuesday, June 11, duly wrote to the EAC Secretary General asking that Kinshasa’s request be put on the agenda of the next Summit of EAC Heads of State and Government.
According to Owora Richard Othieno, Head of Corporate Communications and Public Affairs at the EAC Secretariat in Arusha, Tanzania, November 30, 2019 is the official Summit day “but if there is an urgent issue of regional importance, the Chair can call for an Extraordinary Summit any time or month.”
“There is a procedure that needs to be undertaken, and then visits on the ground for verification of several issues. A similar exercise is being undertaken regarding the request of Somalia.
“I can’t tell exactly how long it will take but if the EAC Summit agrees with the request, I think that the procedure will be launched and we hope that the DRC will officially join the community as soon as possible.”
Othieno explained that when a country asks to join the bloc, the Chairperson of the Community directs their country’s Minister in charge of EAC to write to and forward the application letter to the EAC Secretariat.
“Once it is received here then the Secretariat will table it at the next Council of Ministers meeting. The Council will then form a committee to undertake a verification mission to DRC, and so on.”
The Council will consider Kinshasa’s application under Article 3 of the EAC Treaty.
And if DR Congo meets the requisite conditions then a verification mission will be formed and dispatched as was most recently done in the case of South Sudan.
“They must of course be willing to join the Community and adhere to the Treaty establishing the EAC and other documents and protocols that were signed especially those related to the Customs Union, the Common Market, and the protocols related to the Monetary Union and Political Federation that form the four pillars of the EAC.”