- EAC Common Market Protocol signing set for November
President Paul Kagame yesterday gave a detailed report showcasing some of the achievements the East African Community (EAC) has registered.
In his speech delivered during the 10th Ordinary Summit of EAC Heads of State held at the Ngurdoto Mountain Lodge in Arusha, Tanzania, the President said that since the last Summit held in Kampala last year, the bloc had engaged in a number of important activities.
Kagame, giving a progress report in his capacity as Chairperson of the EAC Heads of State Summit particularly pointed at the finalization of the common market negotiations and commended the high level task force and other stakeholders for having accomplished the task.
He also noted that a number of meetings involving the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA), Southern Development Community (SADC) and the EAC had taken place in pursuit of the establishment of a Free Trade Area.
The three regional economic blocs met in Kampala last year during the tripartite meeting and agreed to move towards the establishment of a Free Trade Area.
Kagame said that as a follow up on the decision by the blocs, a high level aid for trade northern- south corridor conference was held in Lusaka, Zambia, which he described as a success.
Other activities the President mentioned were, two business and investment conferences held in India and the United Kingdom, which he said have since attracted investment interests to the region.
Kagame also listed the State of the EAC address he gave at the East African Legislative Assembly (EALA) in his capacity as Chairperson of the EAC Heads of State.
The President also mentioned the EAC retreat held in Kigali whose primary aim was to promote “frank conversations on how our organs and institutions can best foster mutual working relationships.”
On the EAC Common Market Protocol, the five Heads of State set November this year as the date when it shall be signed.
The Protocol which had initially been planned to be signed yesterday, met a few delays after Tanzania objected to the issue of land ownership, also opposing the use of national identity cards as travel documents within the region.
However, a joint communiqué issued shortly after the leaders’ closed door session, directed, “that the process towards the finalization of annexes as well as the sections on scope and common tariff policies be finalized soonest to enable the signing of the Protocol in November this year.”
In this regard, the Summit observed that the draft Protocol on the Common Market shall not give authority to override national policies and laws.
On the clauses to do with the right of establishment and permanent residence a source of contention during different rounds of negotiations in partner states, the leaders observed that the granting of related rights to access to land and establishment should not be automatic but be a basis for eligibility.
Another decision the Heads of State took that seems to be in conformity with the recently passed variable geometry principle by the East African Court of Justice (EACJ), is that of using national identity cards as travel documents within the region.
They directed that identity cards will not constitute acceptable forms of travel documents on EAC-wide basis, but that partner states that are ready to recognize identity cards as a travel documents on a bilateral basis can proceed.
The Summit also observed that the draft Common Market Protocol shall ensure full protection of cross border investments among East Africans.
The meeting also gave its position on the proposal of the establishment of an African Union (AU) government and transformation of the African Union Commission into the African Union Authority.
“The Summit stated that establishment of an African Union government should be gradual and that the regional economic communities should be strengthened as building blocs towards the realization of continental political integration,” reads the communiqué.
The Heads of State summit also expressed appreciation to the people of Rwanda and Burundi for having given support to the national consultative process on the fast tracking of the political federation in the two partner states.
The two countries, both new entrants to the regional bloc, last year embarked on the consultations already completed in other states.
The Summit concluded and directed that President Kagame continues as Chair of the EAC until November this year.
Kagame assumed the Chairmanship of the bloc at last year’s Summit that took place in Kigali, less than a year into Rwanda’s accession to the EAC.