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DRC sends first minister to Eala two years after joining bloc

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DRC’s Francophone and Regional Integration Minister Didier Mazenga takes the oath of office on June 28, 2024 as an ex-officion member of the East African Legislative Assembly in Arusha, Tanzania. PHOTO | MOSES HAVYARIMANA | NM

The East African Legislative Assembly (Eala) has sworn in the first Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) minister as an ex officio member in Parliament, two years after the Congolese nation joined the regional bloc.

Didier Mazenga, the Francophone and Regional Integration minister, took the oath of office on Friday at the Arusha-based assembly, hours after a heated debate over the non-remittance of contributions by member states, chief among them being the DRC.

“This morning I received the minister from the DRC who visited me at my office, we discussed several issues and he came with good news concerning the arrears,” said the EALA Speaker Joseph Ntakirutimana.

Since becoming a member of the East African Community in May 2022, DRC rarely takes part in regional meetings and has never remitted a cent. It owes the EAC over $14 million spanning two fiscal years.

On Thursday afternoon, Eala MPs had called for the suspension of legislators from countries that had failed to send their remittances to the EAC.

According to the report of the EALA committee on the assessment of the implementation of the EAC Budget for the financial year 2023/24, DRC remained the biggest defaulter having not remitted funds since it joined the Community two years ago.

DRC owes $14.7 million, Burundi $11.2 million, South Sudan $8.6 million, Rwanda $920,869, Uganda $200,203, Tanzania $122,694 and Kenya $20.

“Lawmakers whose countries haven’t remitted funds should attend the Eala plenary virtually to cut the cost of air ticket,” Kenyan MP David Sankok proposed.

Article 146 of the Treaty establishing the East African Community states that the EAC summit may suspend a partner state from taking part in the activities of the Community if that State fails to observe and fulfil the fundamental principles and objectives of the Treaty, including failure to meet financial commitments to the Community within a period of eighteen months.

EAC states are required to remit $7.3 million each to fund the Community’s activities. The funds are about half of the EAC budget, with the rest sourced from development partners.

“We need to implement the alternative financing mechanism that will help partner states contribute in a more timely manner where partner states can give 0.2 percent of the import taxes,” said James Kakooza EALA member from Uganda.

The regional assembly is now expected to approve the $112.98 million EAC 2024/25 Budget tabled on Wednesday.

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