Why a peaceful DRC is critical for East Africa

Rukundo Paul Rwabihurwa

What you need to know:

DR Congo has for long been facing a security crisis and the consequences have been devastating

On April 8, the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) formally joined the East African Community (EAC) after the signing of the Treaty of the Accession of the DRC into the Community in Nairobi, Kenya. This happened after the chairperson of the Summit of EAC Heads of State,  Kenya’s President Uhuru Kenyatta, signed the Treaty of Accession with  DRC’S Félix-Antoine Tshisekedi Tshilombo, at State House, Nairobi.

Other heads of states; President Museveni,  Rwanda’s  Paul Kagame, welcomed the new born country of the EAC and pledged commitment to work together as a region to promote trade, good governance and unity in the region.

DR Congo now has up to September 29, to undertake internal and constitutional processes to ratify the Treaty and deposit the instruments of ratification with the Secretary General.

DRC’s admission excited most of us as it provides a wider market for our products and services under the removal of non-tariff barriers on free movement of people, goods and services across the region.

However, DRC has for long been facing a security crisis and the consequences have been devastating for the Congolese people with over five million displaced.

In eastern DRC alone, there are more than four rebel groups operating in that particular region, and  just a few weeks back, we saw the M23 rebel group announcing the capture of Bunangana, a border town between Uganda and Congo. Before this launch by M23 rebels, we had Allied Democratic Forces operating in the same region until Uganda and DRC launched a joint operation to hunt these rebels which has registered numerous victories.

The potential opportunities that a stable and peaceful DR Congo could bring to the East Africans are unbelievable. The country is blessed  with natural resources, diamonds, gold coltan, uranium, tin and oil just to name a few. It is Africa’s biggest copper producer and the world’s largest source of cobalt, a metal that has tripled in value in the past two years, given the increased demand for electric cars.

DR Congo is a home to the world’s largest rainforest, which serves as a significant carbon sink for greenhouse gases. Its rivers provide a hydropower potential that could power contribute to the lighting of East Africa.

When you clearly analyse East African Exports to DRC you realise that there has been a drastic volume decrease in the years of 2019 to 2021 for all products.

For instance, in milling industries (wheat), in 2019, EAC exported goods worth Shs226b, which reduced to Shs115b in 2020 and Shs58b in 2020 due to the security crisis in the country. 

The interventions made by single member countries like Uganda prioritizing the road construction connecting the two countries will double trade between these two countries, the EAC commitments like Customs Union and Common market, will open more opportunities for the region to strengthen trade and investment and our social cultural ties.

The standard gauge railway project will improve volumes transported to and from will bring life to the impassable DRC.  Security interventions that were launched soon, like deployment of East African Force to fight the economic destabilizers of DRC, are strategic, which member states should ensure are implemented to create a conflict free region.

 Intrigue between countries should be addressed at regional level as it provides a fair systematic platform to neutralize egos of leaders.

East African institutions like Parliament, ministries and secretariats of the community should be empowered to ensure that the interests of East Africans are served. Keeping  DRC  free of attacks is one way to ensure safety of people and property.

Rukundo Paul Rwabihurwa, university lecturer.