East Africa: Tshisekedi Yearns for DRC to Join EAC

11 October 2020

DRC President Felix Tshisekedi's desire for his country to join the East African Community (EAC) has remained since he took power in January 2019.

In record time, President Tshisekedi has travelled to all the countries that share borders with the DRC, a clear difference from his predecessor Joseph Kabila, whose management of the country was considered introverted or even closed.

Five of those countries are in the East African Community.

Last year, the Congolese leader wrote a letter to EAC chairperson Paul Kagame (Rwanda) seeking to be allowed to join the community.

The DRC could become the seventh member after South Sudan, Rwanda, Burundi, Kenya, Tanzania and Uganda.

Complex relations

An important country in the African Great Lakes region, the Democratic Republic of Congo has often had complicated relations with its eastern neighbours.

Under President Kabila, the relations were mainly focused on security and military issues.

President Tshisekedi's goal appears to be to enhance connectivity and trade with DRC's neighbours.

"We are committed to change. We are discussing economic integration, and peace among our people and at our borders," he said recently.

He says one of the keys to success in silencing military disputes is developing economic exchanges for integrated development.

EAC's attractiveness

Observers have noticed that the Congolese head of state seems to have a greater interest in East Africa than any other region.

In a turbulent Central Africa, Mr Tshisekedi is looking at a region whose two EAC members were recently classified as lower middle-income economies.

On each of President Tshisekedi's trips to Kenya last year, his host President Uhuru Kenyatta promised to help the DRC achieve stability and set up partnerships in infrastructure, construction and mining.

Kenya's port of Mombasa serves the entire eastern DRC because it is much quicker to import goods via Kenya than from DRC's western ports, which are far-flung and poorly developed.

The community has not formally responded to the DRC's request to become a member.

According to sources at the DRC's Ministry of Communication, the issue will have to be addressed at the organisation's next summit.

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