Sunday June 20 2021

The move by a Ugandan Advocate Adam Kyomuhendo to seek court’s blockade of admission into the East African Community (EAC) of Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) is a wakeup call to the six-nation regional integration bloc.

First and foremost, the reasons for the suit as highlighted by the former Attorney General of Uganda in his court petition raise substantive questions as to whether the DRC is a suitable member for the EAC.

The petition alleges that DRC has been holding Ugandan activities contrary to the law, in the process causing gross deprivation of their right to be heard. Now, if this is indeed the case, then the EAC needs to be prudent as it ponders on the possibility of the DRC becoming a seventh member of the bloc.

As stipulated in a plethora of international treaties, adherence to the principles of good governance, democracy and the rule of law is pivotal and a precondition for any state to abide by before joining the regional bloc. This being the case, if it is proven that the DRC is holding the victims as alleged, it automatically disqualifies the nation from even being considered to join the EAC. Another question that the EAC Heads of State should be asking themselves as they mull over the prospects of adding another member is the value addition that the DRC brings on the table. What will the EAC stand to gain by allowing the DRC to become a member of the bloc? Some of the immediate responses might gravitate towards economic gains, where the bloc can utilize the vast resources found in the DRC. However, for a nation that has been through economic and political turmoil access to their wealth might not be a path easily granted. In fact, it can potentially expose the rest of the EAC member states into other forms of conflicts.

Another dent in DRC’s bid to join the EAC is the ongoing clash with a founding member of the bloc – Uganda. Uganda and the DRC have had longstanding conflicts over a number of issues, some of which have led to bloodshed, with others ending in captivity. Now, by allowing the DRC into the EAC those clashes might be part of the package. Will the rest of the other members who’re not party to the conflicts ride along as their allies are facing off? This is a question that leaves a bitter taste.


Adherence to good governance and valuing human rights

On issues of human rights, it is no secret that the DRC has for many years been accused of carrying out and facilitating acts that do not value human rights. These are allegations that have persisted for decades, and need to be dealt with firmly if the DRC is to operate on the regional or global stage where such infringements are not taken lightly. So, is the EAC ready to engage with the DRC on addressing these flaws?

However, even with all these red flags being raised, the DRC does have a right to stand a chance for admission. As a developing country there are many issues on the economic and political front that need to be addressed. The EAC should only deny the DRC entry into the bloc if there are vivid signs that the nation is not open to solving the highlighted flaws.

Every member state of the EAC has issues that they need to address, be it at home or even across their borders. What is imperative when it comes to matters of multinational cooperation is the willingness to create cordial relations that will foster sustainable development.