By Spy Uganda
The East African Community (EAC) has hailed the decision by the Republic of Kenya and the United Republic of Tanzania to waive the requirements of obtaining visas to their territories for the citizens of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) effective 25th August and 1st September, 2023 respectively.
DRC has subsequently lifted visa restrictions for Kenyan nationals effective 1st September, 2023 in a reciprocation of the move by Kenya to waive visa requirements for DRC nationals.
The EAC Secretary General, Hon. Dr. Peter Mathuki, said that allowing DRC citizens to travel freely to Kenya and Tanzania and vice versa was in line with the provisions of the EAC Common Market Protocol, which among other freedoms and rights, provides for the free movement of persons and workers across the region.
Dr. Mathuki said that the waiver of the visa requirements was a demonstration of political goodwill among the Partner States in promoting regional integration, adding that it would boost intra-regional trade and the welfare of EAC citizens.
“In addition to improving intra-regional trade, free movement of persons will promote the free movement of goods, labour, cultural exchange and domestic tourism in East and Central Africa,” said Dr. Mathuki, as he urged other Partner States to follow suit in the spirit of reciprocity.
“This is a positive step towards consolidating the gains made in implementing the EAC Common Market Protocol and other stages in the integration process. It is set to expand trade and investment opportunities, and scale up socio-economic growth across the bloc,” he said.
DRC joined the EAC last year as its seventh Partner States. The other Partner States are the Republics of Burundi, Kenya, Rwanda, South Sudan, Uganda and the United Republic of Tanzania.
Article 10 of the EAC Common Market Protocol states that citizens of EAC Partner States are at liberty to accept employment within the territories of Partner States other than their own.
“We call on other Partner States that have not yet waived visa requirements for DRC citizens to expedite the negotiations with the bloc’s newest member in line with the provisions of the Common Market Protocol on the free movement of persons and workers,” said the Secretary General.
Article 7 of the EAC Common Market Protocol stipulates that ‘EAC Partner States shall ensure non‐discrimination of the citizens of the other Partner States based on their nationalities by ensuring entry of citizens of the other Partner States into the territory of the Partner State without a visa and free movement of persons who are citizens of the other Partner States within the territory of the Partner State.’
It further outlines that ‘EAC citizens are allowed to stay in the territory of a Partner State and exit without restrictions.’
The lifting of the visa restrictions is in line with a directive by President William Ruto on 29th July, 2023 in Mombasa that Kenya would remove DRC from Category 2 to Category 1 of visa regulations.