The right of establishment and residence, free movement of services are the outstanding issues that dominated the beginning of the High Level Task Force (HLTF) meeting in Kampala last week while negotiating the East African Community (EAC) common market protocol. The negotiations opened in Kampala on 6th of Monday October.
At the last meeting held in Bujumbura mid last month (20th -27th), the HLTF had agreed to handle the above outstanding issues at the meeting in Kampala.
However by Wednesday, the five partner states of Kenya, Tanzania, Uganda, Rwanda and Burundi represented at the meeting failed to find a common ground concerning outstanding issues raised from the Bujumbura meeting.
According to Prudence Sebahizi, the Executive Secretary of Rwanda’s Regional Integration Committee, the outstanding issues are critical issues that have significant implications on the operation of the common market.
“These are critical issues for every partner state that require us to do more consultation back at home. It is impossible for us to commit ourselves without further consultations, because these are very sensitive areas,” he said in an interview with The New Times.
Apart from the issues regarding right of establishment and right of residence, other issues that remain pending as the negotiations progress are, the issue of land, capital and labour.
The right of establishment guarantees nationals of member states the right to work and set up investments in partner states within the region without discrimination.
The right of residence gives citizens of the community who are nationals of other partner states the right to live and work within the region.
“As we negotiate we want to achieve reciprocal terms within the provisions of the Common Market. If a Tanzania is allowed to stay and work in Rwanda, the same treatment should be given to the Rwandan who goes to Tanzania,” Sebahizi noted.
He also pointed out that the right of establishment and residence are fundamental issues that will facilitate operation of the common market.
“The common market in principle is about the four freedoms (free movement of goods, free movement of persons, free movement of Labour and free movement of capital).
But if you are allowed to move, then you also must be allowed to stay. You can not start a business in a country where you are not allowed to stay,”
During the negotiations some member states suggested that the right of resident should be a stand alone chapter in the protocol contrary to having it stipulated as a sub –section.
Friction among the members was also about whether the right of residence should be granted to a citizen automatically after taking up employment or a business venture while others suggest that the right of residence should be granted after a certain period of years in the foreign country.
“As Rwanda we think the right of residence should be stipulated as a stand alone chapter and as a stand alone right.
This is for purposes of explaining it further linking to other freedoms. We want explained giving details on where it starts and ends even if it given to somebody doing business,” Sebahizi explained who is also Rwanda’s Chief negotiator at the meeting.
“We also want the right of residence to be granted for a purpose whether it is work or doing business and it should be granted for a certain period of time. One can apply for a resident permit which should be granted according to the work permit. And it can also be renewable.”
He added that there was fear of the right be misinterpreted, denied or even violated, if detailed information is not provided under the right of residence as a stand alone chapter.
“If it is not a stand alone chapter it means some where it may be denied because somebody may not clearly identify its provisions. But if it well explained somebody will know how to claim it,” Sebahizi said.
According to Tanzania the right of residence is not provided for in their immigration policy.
It has also taken a firm negative stand on the free movement of persons: that grants the right to use national identification documents issued by partner states to facilitate the movement of persons.
Conversely, free movement of services was also suspended to the next round of negotiations in Tanzania, Zanzibar citing that the sector was very wide and needed further consultation into the matter.
Free movement of services provides for free movement of services or service suppliers of a partner state within the Community without any discrimination.
“This is a work in progress and we have agreed to continue negotiating new areas concerning harmonization of policies. Whatever we have bracketed does not mean we have not reached a consensus but it means we have to do further consultations especially in areas where we don’t agree.
We shall come back to all these areas after further consultations and find a common ground,” Sebahizi concluded.
The new areas currently being negotiated are: Transport policy, Economic and Monetary Policy co-ordination; competition and other common rules.
The EAC common market protocol is a legal instrument with many articles that will govern movement of factors of production.