Neighbouring DR Congo has formally expressed interest in joining the East African Community (EAC) in a letter by President Félix Tshisekedi to the EAC Chairman, President Paul Kagame, expressing his country’s wish to join the bloc.
The letter is dated June 8, 2019, in which Tshisekedi states that his request follows the ever-growing trade between the business community in his country and member states of the EAC.
In the EAC corridors, talk of DR Congo’s interest to join the six-member regional bloc comprising Rwanda, Burundi, Uganda, Kenya, South Sudan and Tanzania has been on for some years now.
Olivier Nduhungirehe, Rwanda's State Minister for EAC affairs, told The New Times 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.”
Nduhungirehe said: “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 by Somalia.”
“I can’t tell exactly how long it will take but if the EAC Summit agrees with the request, I think the procedure will be launched and we hope that DR Congo will officially join the community as soon as possible.”
Othieno explained that when a country officially applies to join EAC, the Chairperson of the Community directs their country's Minister in charge of EAC affairs to officially inform trhe the Secretariat.
“Once it (the letter) 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 accordingly.”
The Council will consider Kinshasa’s application under Article 3 of the EAC Treaty.