By Tobby Otum
Kenya and DR Congo have today signed four framework cooperation agreements covering several economic sectors, security and defence as well as maritime transport.
Among the four pacts, signed on the second day of President Kenyatta’s three-day State visit of DR Congo, is the general cooperation agreement which provides a framework for joint promotion of economic, technical, scientific and socio-cultural programmes.
The economic sectors targeted by the broad framework are agriculture, education, health, sports and tourism. Others are environment, SME’s, housing, energy and infrastructure development.
Also signed were two separate bilateral agreements on security and defence, which provide mechanisms for cooperation between Kenya and DR Congo in areas such as counterterrorism, immigration, cyber security, and customs and border control.
The revitalised agreement on maritime freight is aimed at repositioning the port of Mombasa as DR Congo’s main exit gateway by streamlining the handling of the country’s transit cargo.
In a joint press address with his Congolese host shortly after witnessing the signing of the agreements, President Kenyatta said the new pacts signifies the strengthening bilateral ties between the two sister nations.
“Indeed the relations between our two countries have been cordial over many decades and the relationship has continued to broaden and deepen especially since you ascended to power in areas of trade, security as well as our multilateral engagements,” President Kenyatta told his host.
To accelerate cooperation in the identified sectors, President Kenyatta announced Kenya’s plans to expand its diplomatic footprints in DR Congo by setting up outposts in Goma and Lubumbashi.
“To further deepen the good relationship between our two countries, Kenya is committed to establishing a consulate in Goma as well as an honorary consulate in Lubumbashi,” the President announced.
The Kenyan Head of State called for the harmonization visa regimes between Kenya and DR Congo saying the intervention will help ease the movement of people, goods and services in the region.
Once again, President Kenyatta thanked DR Congo for the support it gave Kenya in her successful bid for the UN Security Council seat and assured President Tshisekedi, who is also the current African Union Chairperson, that the country will continue to advance “the case and cause for Africa” during its tenure.
On regional matters, President Kenyatta welcomed DR Congo’s application to join the East African Community (EAC) saying its admission will help accelerate regional integration and progress.
“I am also delighted that the Democratic Republic of Congo has shown a strong interest to join the East African Community which I believe will further strengthen the bonds of the people of our great region,” President Kenyatta, who is also the current Chairperson of the EAC, said.
On his part, President Felix Tshisekedi thanked his visiting counterpart for the continued support DR Congo continues to receive from Kenya especially in trade facilitation.
“I will never stop to be grateful for the support Kenya continues to offer DRC,” President Tshisekedi said while thanking his Kenyan counterpart for being the only African Head of State at his inauguration ceremony.
He said the visit by President Kenyatta had presented an opportunity for Kenya and DR Congo to renew their bilateral relations and outlined security, regional connectivity, and the fight against corruption and economic crimes as the priority areas.
On connectivity, the Congolese leader said his country will work with Kenya on creating a seamless transport corridor from the Port of Mombasa through Uganda into DR Congo.
President Tshisekedi announced a plan by the African Union Special Representative on Infrastructure and Kenya’s former Prime Minister Raila Odinga to host an investors conference on the development of the giant Inga Dams on River Congo.
President Kenyatta was accompanied to the meeting at the Palais de la Nation, the official resident of DR Congo’s President, by Cabinet Secretaries Raychelle Omamo (Foreign Affairs) and Eugene Wamalwa (Devolution).
Also present were Kenya’s Ambassador to DR Congo Dr George Masafu and the Director for Africa and the African Union at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs Amb George Orina.