The Minister of East African Affairs, Monique Mukaruliza, has pledged to have the East African Community Common Market instruments ratified before the end of April this year.
The Minister made the revelation yesterday while addressing a joint parliamentary session aimed at giving parliamentarians a deeper insight into the Common Market Protocol, its prospects, opportunities and challenges.
Vocal lawmakers Gideon Kayinamura and Connie Bwiza had raised their concerns regarding the likely delay in ratifying the Common Market Protocol.
In her response, Mukaruliza said; “the upcoming cabinet meeting is scheduled to approve a Presidential Decree endorsing the protocol.”
She added that after the cabinet approval, the document will be brought before parliament for ratification and the whole process, she predicted, will have to be completed before the end of April.
The Common Market Protocol was signed on November 20, last year by the EAC Heads of State.
According to the Minister, the protocol is expected to be ratified by all EAC member States before the end of April and enter into force on July 01, this year.
Instruments to be ratified include annexes to remove restrictions on free movement of workers, right of establishment, right of residence, harmonization and mutual recognition of academic and professional qualifications and removal of restrictions on free movement of capital.
Meanwhile, according to Rwanda’s chief negotiator for the EAC Common Market Protocol, Prudence Sebahizi, the protocol will help in establishing a smoothly functioning Customs Union including complete elimination of all tariff and non-tariff barriers plus a common external tariff.
He added that the establishment of a regional common market aims at accelerating economic growth and development by strengthening the bloc’s economic status.
In a new twist, MP Safari Begumisa blamed the EAC Ministry for not availing enough information regarding regional integration.
“I want to take this opportunity to express my discontent on the fact the Ministry is not availing and disseminating information regarding integration; both the public and the parliament know less about what is going on,” charged Begumisa.
Senate vice-president Prosper Higiro also expressed his worries to the ministry regarding lack of awareness on regional integration.
The biggest problem is that we do not have evidence to back up what we expect from this integration process, we need to come up with a clear forecast and statistics of what we expect in future and what we have so far achieved,” he said.