Rwanda, Kenya seek to ease travel restrictions
Rwandans and Kenyans could soon start travelling to either country using their national identity cards, immigration officials have said.
Ange Sebutege, the communications officer at the Directorate of Immigration and Emigration, said the two institutions (Immigration) have already agreed to set up a bilateral technical team to study all the intricacies involved.
The decision was reached at a recent meeting in Kigali between the two countries’ immigration bosses.
The technical team that would involve the immigration officials from both countries is expected to commence the study by the end of this year, where they will discuss all the terms of reference, according to Sebutege.
“The whole idea is about easing free movement of people and goods between the two countries. Recently, the two immigration chiefs met in Kigali and recommended to set up the team to study how the IDs will be used,” he said.
However, the critical issue that might arise after the adoption of using identity cards is that travellers will pass through other countries like Uganda which is not party to the arrangement.
For example, someone travelling to Kenya by road has to go through Kampala and it’s not clear if these cards might be allowed at immigration offices on the Ugandan side.
Sebutege explained that this is one of the issues to be addressed by the technical team.
Under the Common Market Protocol, the electronic readable card is one of the documents EAC partner states are required to issue to their citizens to facilitate the four freedoms in the region–free movement of people, goods, services and capital.
Rwanda and Kenya are the only countries in the region with electronic identity cards, meaning that the movement of people would become easier in the two countries than the rest of other partner states.
After the report is completed, it will be presented to the two immigration chiefs for approval.
EAC Heads of State signed the Common Market Protocol on November 2009 to facilitate the free movement of goods, labour and capital with the aim of creating a favourable atmosphere for regional trade.
At a recent EAC media summit in Kigali, Musa Sirma, the Kenyan Minister for East African Cooperation, announced to journalists that the discussions between Rwanda and Kenya on the matter were already at an advanced stage.
“Kenya already has some arrangements in the pipeline for mutual agreement with Rwanda, to allow the citizens of the two countries to enter either country using just their respective national IDs,” said Sirma.
He further added the two countries will also exchange immigration officers to serve at their respective states’ desks.
“That should be the starting of making five EAC member states remove the passport requirement amongst the residents of their countries just, as they managed to abolish visas for local travellers,” he said.
Rwanda has also waived work permit fee to all citizens from the other EAC member states as away of promoting free movement of labour.
Contact email: eric.kabeera[at]newtimes.co.rw