It has been years in preparation. Finally, on Monday, June 13, the deal was signed.
The city of Tuskegee and Mbuji-Mayi, the second largest city of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), officially signed a Sister City/Twin City agreement that will last into perpetuity.
Mayor Lawrence F. Haygood Jr. of Tuskegee and Mayor Louis d’Or Ntumba Thisapota of Mbuji-Mayi signed the agreement along with DRC Senate Vice President Eddy Mundela Kanku, as part of the formalities.
Haygood, as the host of the ceremony, spoke about the unique importance of the agreement and its promise for the two cities.
“We are very thankful and blessed today that we have come together to form our Twin City – Mbuji-Mayi, Democratic Republic of the Congo, and Tuskegee, Alabama,” Haygood said. “We look forward to many great things to come from this opportunity: social, economic, and all kinds of great possibilities, opportunities, and, of course, all kinds of blessings. And I sign as the mayor of Tuskegee.”
Ntumba Thisapota signed immediately after Haygood and was followed by Mundela. Tuskegee University, which is autonomous from the city of Tuskegee, is also a part of the agreement. Tuskegee University brings to the mix its advanced technology in agriculture, engineering, and aviation. Mbuji-Mayi is noted for its abundance in industrial diamonds, cobalt, and other minerals prized in the world marketplace.
The proclamation cites the mutual benefits to both cities. The partners to the agreement seek to share developments in agriculture, engineering, technology, education, trade, travel, tourism, and other areas of benefits, it says.
The officials and leadership of each city are committed to establishing a formal relationship for their present and future growth and development, the text of the agreement said.
The final step in confirming the agreement will take place in the city of Mbuji-Mayi in the DRC with the translation of the document into French, according to Jean-Claude Atusemeso, president of the U.S.-Congo Chamber of Commerce based in Washington, D.C.
“It has always been the aim of the President of the Democratic Republic of Congo to build good bridges between us and the U.S.,” Atusemeso said. “The signing of this agreement between the City of Tuskegee and the City of Mbuji-Mayi is a high-level realization of this dream. It is the first of its kind. Others are coming.”
Atusemeso said Monday’s achievement owed a great deal to the pioneer work of two men who died before their dream was realized.
A moment of silence at the signing was held in tribute to Gilbert Mundela, the elder brother of Senator Eddy Mundela, and for Jack Sims, the former mayor of District Heights, Maryland. They laid the groundwork for an earlier Sister City relationship, Atusemeso said. Sims died on Feb. 4, 2022, and Gilbert Mundela on Dec. 29, 2019.
Mbuji-Mayi (pronounced “Em-BOO-gee MY-ee”) is in Kasai-Oriental Province in south-central DRC, the home province of President Felix Tshisekedi, whose birthday was celebrated on June 13, the day of the signing. Both the United Nations and the World Bank list Mbuji-Mayi as possessing the largest number of natural and industrial diamond fields in the world.