A public hearing on the East African Community (EAC) Common Market protocol by the East African Legislative Assembly (EALA) was concluded at Prime Holdings Monday.
Jointly chaired by EALA and the country’s High Level Task Force (HLTF) on the on-going negotiations of the EAC Common Market Protocol, the event’s objectives included identifying and marking out key issues and policy options to guide negotiations.
“This public hearing is meant to afford the Private Sector and civil society with the opportunities to air their views on various issues that will need to be addressed in the operationalisation of the Protocol,” Monique Mukaruliza, Rwanda’s Minister of EAC Affairs said in her opening remarks.
She said the views would also be used in the development of the annexes, directives and regulation that the Council of Ministers will establish.
While acknowledging that there were some challenges, Uganda’s Mike Sebalu shed more light on the event’s significance.
“We are here so that people can give us some of the issues they think are part of what they feel need to be addressed,” he said.
“That is why we are being proactive – to be able to get the challenges ahead of time and then have sufficient time to workout modalities of dealing with the challenges,” said Sebalu.
Abdon Nkotanyi, a local trade unionist, acknowledged that such consultations were very imperative since Rwanda was part of the much needed initiative.
“The Common Market is very important and we have to get involved,” he said.
Ronald Nkusi, from the Central Public Investments and External Finance Bureau (CEPEX) was similarly enthusiastic.
“The consultations are a good thing to do if they want to have the general view of local people and from different sectors. It will give guidance on how the feelings of local people are on the common market,” he said.
“The community has to be people-centred and, the people must understand issues,” he added.
CEPEX is a semi-autonomous body in the Finance Ministry, whose main mission is to promote optimal allocation of resources in order to attain envisaged development objectives.
The main features of a Common Market are what have been called the “four freedoms” – free movement of labour, goods, services and capital within the Community.
According to Prudence Sebahizi, Rwanda’s HLTF chief negotiator, these freedoms imply total elimination of barriers to trade in goods and services plus free movement of capital, persons and the right of establishment and residence. However, there are some limitations on their enjoyment.
“The enjoyment of these four freedoms shall be subject to limitations justified on grounds of public policy, public security or public health” he said. He explained that Partner States will agree on what constitutes the limitations.