The East African Community’s (EAC) Legislative Assembly has criticized member states for failing to adhere to the December 31 2015 deadline, at which stage citizens of the East African Community were to attain the full freedom of movement across national borders without restrictions.
Condemned at the time by Tanzania did Uganda, Rwanda and Kenya three years ago form the coalition of the willing, tired of the slow bureaucratic process and obvious lack of political will by Tanzania, aimed to fast track reforms and implement resolutions and protocols where others continued to ponder.
Among the accomplishments of what was later named the Northern Corridor Integration Project countries, in short NCIP, was the launch of a common tourist Visa to promote and stimulate cross border travel by foreign tourists but also the introduction of the use of national ID cards, and in the case of Uganda voters cards, without the need to obtain a passport first. Expatriates in the three countries, as long as they are duly registered and hold a residency or work permit, now also travel between the three countries by using an Interstate Pass, no longer requiring them to pay Visa fees.
EALA has in its latest sitting now appealed to the five member countries to finally tie up loose ends and implement the necessary reforms and, among other issues raised with EALA by member state citizens, employers’ associations and unions, drop work and residence permit requirements in compliance with the Protocol on the Freedom of Movement which was signed in 2010.
Again have Rwanda, Uganda and Kenya implemented a range of measures already, including the dropping of workpermit fees and requirements for citizens of the three countries, leaving Tanzania trailing.
The new government in Tanzania has so far given no firm indication which direction the country wants to move after the notoriously slow paced Kikwete regime was replaced in the last elections. Recent comments by President Magufuli on Tanzania’s intent to replace foreign workers was received with some level of consternation in other EAC countries but no formal clarification has been issued. All eyes are now of the scheduled Head of State Summit of the East African Community due by end of February, when also a new union president will be elected and a new Secretary General named.
Free movement is expected to boost the member states’ tourism sector income through added overnights in hotels, the use of local facilities and transport, as already proven to be the case for Uganda, Rwanda and Kenya, where border crossings of citizens using ID cards has significantly increased.