Recently, the Democratic Republic of Congo formally applied for admission to the East African Community (EAC). The EAC is a regional intergovernmental organisation whose current Partner States are: the Republics of Kenya, Rwanda, Uganda, South Sudan, Burundi and the United Republic of Tanzania.
The Republic of South Sudan acceded to the EAC Treaty on 15 April 2016 and is now a full member as of 15 August 2016.
Prior to analysing the varied interests to the EAC bloc, it is quite interesting to analyse whether the DRC application is conformable to the EAC Treaty, the principal governing instrument of the Community.
The EAC is a closed organisation as opposed to an open organisation. To illustrate, a closed organisation specially formed to be either from a regional perspective or for a functional perspective. In this context, the EAC is a closed organisation of a regional perspective.
In the pursuit of its core mandate, the EAC discharges its duties in the interests of the Community, in turn to the benefits of its citizens, and in the light of the EAC Treaty, under Article 3, and implementing Protocols [notably Customs Union and Common Market].
Indeed, in a closed organisation, all interactions only happen within the specific system, which means closed systems are shut off from the outside environment, and every interaction is transmitted inside that closed system.
Under Article 3, paragraph 3, of the EAC Treaty embodies the essential requirements to be taken into account by the Partner States in considering the application by a foreign country to become a member and participate in any of the activities of the Community, shall meet the following: 1) acceptance of the Community as set out in this Treaty; 2) adherence to universally acceptable principles of good governance, democracy, the rule of law, observance of human rights and social justice; 3) potential contribution to the strengthening of integration within the East African region; 4) geographical proximity to and inter-dependence between it and the Partner States; 5) establishment and maintenance of a market driven economy; 6) social and economic policies being compatible with those of the Community.
As a matter of principle, and in the light of the point one of the preceding paragraph, the DRC, in expressing interest to join the Community, must accept, or accede to, the obligations under the governing treaty of the Community. Additionally, it must be willing and able to carry out those obligations.
In relation to fundamental human rights values, like many countries, the DRC laws must embody adherence to universally acceptable principles of good governance, democracy, the rule of law, observance of human rights and social justice.
In my countries these core human rights values are contained in the Constitution. However, the level of realization of these fundamental values is a different thing, and varies from a country to another.
With regard to geographical proximity to and inter-dependence between it [the DRC] and the Partner States of the EAC, the DRC is bordering Rwanda, Burundi and Uganda. In fact, most economic blocs are formed by countries within the same geographic region.
Close geographic proximity facilitates transportation of products, labor, and other factors of production. Neighbouring countries also tend to share culture and language.
The effect of geographic distance has potential impact on trade. A geographically close country in a particular region may increase integration, trade, cooperation and interaction.
In addition, geographical proximity may improve market driven economy in terms of frontier delivery networks for consumers and suppliers at the retail and wholesale levels. These levels of interaction would increase the greater geographic market.
It is important to stress that one of the most important benefits of regional interaction is to create a bigger market, which has potential spillover effects among Partner States.
The results suggest a competitive effect flowing from the free movement of goods, people, labour, services and capital from one Partner State to another as well as the rights of establishment and residence without restrictions.
To accelerate economic growth and development, it means that the EAC Partner States maintain a liberal stance towards those freedoms of movement for all the factors of production.
Furthermore, consideration of the DRC application into EAC may enhance security within the region given that in recent years there have subversive activities which affected countries in the eastern part of the DRC.
As such, it is of paramount importance to bring the DRC onboard as a means of enhancing security cooperation. This can be reflected in the ‘Final Communique’ of the Quadripartite Summit between the Heads of State of Angola, Rwanda, Democratic Republic of Congo and Uganda, held on 12 July 2019, in Luanda, capital of Angola.
During the Summit, the Heads of State welcomed the efforts of the DRC authorities to ensure peace and security in the entire national terriory, especially the eastern part of the country. In this regard, no one can underestimate the importance of the regional security.
However, the decision to the admission of a new member is in the province of all Partner States. And such a decision cannot be taken by a single country but a collective decision.
The writer is a law expert.
The views expressed in this article are of the author.