There are high chances that the leaders of the East African Community (EAC) will approve the application by DR Congo to join the regional bloc during the Heads of State Summit scheduled to convene before this year ends, sources have told The New Times.
According to the sources, Kinshasa presented a strong case for admission into the bloc.
The 21st ordinary meeting of the Summit of the EAC Heads of State, held virtually on February 27 considered the application by DR Congo to join the Community and directed the Council of Ministers to expeditiously undertake a verification mission in accordance with the EAC procedure for admission of new members into the bloc and report to the next Summit.
By September, a report by a regional verification mission on the DR Congo’s eligibility to join the bloc was ready to be looked at by the Council of Ministers and Manasseh Nshuti, Rwanda’s Minister of State for EAC Affairs, at the time indicated that it was positive.
The East African Business Council (EABC) also urged EAC Heads of State to direct relevant organs to fast-track the admission of the DR Congo into the bloc.
On Tuesday, November 9, Nshuti told The New Times that regional ministers in Charge of EAC Affairs are set to meet from November 26 to 27 in preparation for the Summit and that “Council will confirm the date after agreeing on substantive issues to be presented to Heads of State.”
Besides the exact date of the Summit, a venue will also be confirmed in due course.
Asked specifically about DR Congo’s admission chances, he said: “As regards the entry of DR Congo, I am almost sure it [Summit] will approve admission.”
Congolese President Félix Tshisekedi on June 8, 2019, wrote to the then EAC Chairman, President Paul Kagame of Rwanda, expressing his country’s wish to be a member of the regional bloc now comprising Rwanda, Burundi, Uganda, Kenya, South Sudan and Tanzania.
Ordinarily, the EAC Summit is held on November 30, which is EAC Day.
The Summit is usually preceded by a meeting of the Council of Ministers.
“However, this (Summit date) is subject to consensus by the members of the Summit. As per the EAC calendar of activities, the 41st Ordinary Meeting of the Council is set for the last week of November 2021 (23rd – 29th November, 2021),” said Simon Peter Owaka, the EAC’s Senior Public Relations Officer.
Regarding key items of agenda and other important matters that might be discussed in the upcoming Summit, Nshuti noted that ministers are still preparing and “after deciding on issues then the Chairperson can set the agenda.”
“The Council will meet next week 26th to 27th; after that the Chair can call for Summit. The Summit should be held this year.”
Little might he certain about the next Summit’s key agenda items but the Minister noted that leaders will be focused on the “welfare of the people of the Community especially in the midst of the Covid-19 pandemic.”
Nshuti said: “The impact of the pandemic on our economies and people and how, together, all the six countries, we can manage the situation, will be important. Covid-19 has hit all corners of our countries and we must look at mitigation measures jointly.”
“Robust harmonised measures are critical. If, for example, we manage Covid-19 here in Rwanda, and neighbours don’t we shall still be affected. We need to rethink how it impacted our economies and how best we can, as a community, respond collectively.”
Nshuti also shed light where things stand as regards efforts to sort out an unresolved recruitment dispute at the EAC Secretariat.
Nshuti noted that a Council meeting is scheduled for November 18 to 26 to look into the matter, again, and wrap things up.
He said: “We are meeting to see how to sort it out. It is an issue, basically about the quota system. It is being worked on. We should get it right this time. There were mistakes which we can be corrected.”
Ministers in charge of EAC affairs on October 19 pledged to address issues causing a standoff in the ongoing staff recruitment exercise after some regional lawmakers alleged that the process was marred with irregularities and unfair treatment of citizens from some countries.
The ongoing process of the recruitment of staff for the EAC, in general, aims to fill positions that have remained vacant for some years.
More than 15,000 applications were received from all partner states, delegates profiled and candidates subsequently shortlisted but interviews which were to commence on October 18 and end on November 2 could not commence as scheduled due to quorum.
Earlier, Uganda’s EAC Affairs Minister Rebecca Kadaga, wrote to the Secretary-General demanding that the interviews set for October 18 for various advertised jobs at the EAC organs and institutions be postponed until the Secretariat submits the available quota points for each country as at the time or date of advertising the jobs.