EAC negotiations fail to beat deadline

The eight-day East African Community (EAC) negotiations for a common market have been caught up by time and can not fully cover all major issues. Before the meeting began, members had adopted a program that stipulated the agenda.
Presidents Paul Kagame and  Yoweri Kaguta Museveni signing the EAC treaty last year. (File photo).
Presidents Paul Kagame and Yoweri Kaguta Museveni signing the EAC treaty last year. (File photo).

The eight-day East African Community (EAC) negotiations for a common market have been caught up by time and can not fully cover all major issues. Before the meeting began, members had adopted a program that stipulated the agenda.

Representatives of member countries were supposed to discuss four major pillars of the common market protocol; however, only two had been covered by Saturday. The issues that were not covered included considerations for right of establishment as well as the right of residence.

Prudence Sebahizi, the chief negotiator for Rwanda, confirmed that the time factor affected negotiations, but quickly added that the programme was just a draft.  He explained that they did not cover all issues because the first five days required detailed analyses.

“There were considerations of comments from the model EAC common market protocol, the preamble, objectives and principles, which were all crucial. These were to lay ground for the smooth considerations on the pillars of the common market,” he said.

The pillars include free movement of persons and services, free movement of Capital, the right of establishment and of residence.

Sebahizi, who is also the Executive Secretary of Rwanda’s regional integration committee, said the issues were postponed to the next meeting which will be held in Nairobi, Kenya next month.

During the negotiations, it was agreed that the preamble of the common market protocol be made flexibile for revisiting in the case new constructive issues come up.

Comments from partner states on the protocol were handled amicably as all task forces had experts to decide on the negotiation approach.

There were minor modifications on the free movement of goods since the issues had been tackled earlier in December during negotiations for the customs union protocol.

The free movement of workers and self employed persons were discussed at length and caused a hot debate between negotiating countries as they did not agree on the categorization of workers to be granted free movement.

Initially, only skilled and self employed workers had been allowed free movement but could not move with their dependents, however, a consensus was reached that all EAC citizens were free to work and move with their dependants. 

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