The East African Community (EAC) has hailed the decision by Kenya and Tanzania to waive visa requirements for visiting DRC citizens.

The EAC Secretary General Peter Mathuki, said allowing DRC citizens to travel freely to Kenya and Tanzania and vice versa was in line with the provisions of the bloc’s Common Market Protocol, which among other freedoms and rights, provides for the free movement of persons and workers across the region.

Mr 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 Mr Mathuki, urging other Partner States to emulate the move.

DRC subsequently lifted visa restrictions for Kenyan nationals from September 1, 2023, in a reciprocation of the move by Nairobi.

“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,” said the SG.

DRC joined the EAC last year as its seventh Partner State. Other members are Burundi, Kenya, Rwanda, South Sudan, Uganda and 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,” he said.

The lifting of the visa restrictions by Kenya is in line with a directive by President William Ruto on July 23, 2023 in Mombasa that Kenya would remove DRC from Category 2 to Category 1 of visa regulations.