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Uhuru and DRC President sign several cooperation agreements

AFRICA
By Jacob Ng'etich | April 21st 2021
DR Congo President Felix Tshisekedi (L) and Kenya's Uhuru Kenyatta (R). [File, Standard]

Kenya and Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) signed four framework cooperation agreements covering several economic sectors, security and defence as well as maritime transport.

President Uhuru Kenyatta and his DRC counterpart President Felix Tshisekedi witnessed the signing of the bilateral agreement on his second day of his three-day state visit to the DRC at the invitation of the country's Head of State.

Among the four pacts signed, 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 counter terrorism, 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 EXIM gateway by streamlining the handling of the country's transit cargo.

"Today (Wednesday, April 21) we have witnessed the signing on a number of agreements and cooperations. Indeed the relations between our two countries have been cordial over decades band the relationship has continued to broaden and deepen especially since your (Tshisekedi) to power such as Trade, security as well as multi-lateral engagements," said the President.

In a joint press address with his Congolese host, President Kenyatta said the new pacts signifies the strengthening bilateral ties between the two sister nations.

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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 easen the movement of people, goods and services in the region.

President Kenyatta's visit according to the country's ambassador to DR Congo Dr George Masafu was aimed at cementing bilateral ties between Kenya and the DRC through enhanced trade and people-to-people interactions.

"I believe this commonality, give us a very good opportunity to even deepen relations further as we work together to achieve this noble objectives for the people of our respective countries," said President.

Kenyatta lauded DR Congo for the support it gave Kenya in her successful bid for the UN Security Council (UNSC) seat and assured President Tshisekedi, who is also the current African Union (AU) 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 DRC 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.

"As part widening deeper relationship between the two countries, Kenya is committed to opening up a consulate in Goma and an honorary consulate in Lubumbashi as well as ease the restriction on visas and restriction to strengthen the relationship," said President Kenyatta.

On his part, President Tshisekedi thanked his visiting counterpart for the continued support DR Congo receives 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 Masafu and the Director for Africa and the African Union at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs Amb George Orina.

The agreements on counter terrorism, include small arms and light weapons, immigration, custom and border control and police cooperation.

The two presidents also agreed on areas of Small, Medium Enterprises and crafts, youth and Sports, urbanization, town planning and housing, transport, Information and Communication Technology, energy, finance and investments, infrastructure Development and defense and Security.

The two governments identified aviation, insurance, hospitality, mining and construction as some of the other sectors that present the highest potential for success and encouraged Kenyan traders to take advantage of direct flights between Nairobi and Kinshasa by Kenya Airways.

On Wednesday, April 21, Ambassador Masafu said the coming of the President to this country (DR Congo) is to strengthen that relationship, especially on the business side.

He said President Kenyatta's trip will strengthen the relationship between Kenya and DRC through diplomatic relations, through trade, through security relations and through other areas that build both sides, it is a win-win situation.The Kenyan ambassador noted that the long time, civil war in parts of DR Congo had hindered trade, noting that the return of political stability in 2014 had seen more Kenyan businesses set up shop in the country.

"For many years, trade between Kenya and DRC has been insignificant. The reason being that the DRC

was at war. It was not safe to do business here. Since 2014, we (Kenyan businesses) made an entry into this country," Amb Masafu said, adding that Kenya was keen on growing its exports into the vast Central African nation.

"In agriculture, most of the food in DRC is imported from overseas. There's an opportunity for Kenyans to participate in food security in this country, to make sure they can feed DRC and export some back to Kenya," he said.

Ambassador Masafu also encouraged Kenyans to invest in DRC's emerging service sector citing the example of Kenya's Equity Bank which has successfully positioned itself to become the country's second-largest financial institution.

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