The East African Legislative Assembly (EALA) has been called upon to facilitate the implementation of the Common Market Protocol through relevant legislation for the region to benefit from free movement of people and services.
The challenge to the regional lawmakers was made by Rwandan Senate president Bernard Makuza while opening a session of EALA sitting in Kigali yesterday.
The session was attended by a section of members of the Rwandan Parliament.
Makuza said one of the key expectations of the EAC citizens from their leaders was a comprehensive mechanism to accelerate implementation of the protocol.
“By delaying the implementation of the protocol, we are depriving EAC citizens the promises made to make the East African Community a common market for free movement of people, jobs, service provision, education, financial access and services,” Makuza said.
The EAC Common Market Protocol was signed by the five East African Community Heads of State in 2009 and took effect in 2010 after ratification.
The main objective of the protocol is to accelerate economic development of the region and foster social ties of the East African community through the elimination of barriers to regional trade and movement of East African citizens.
Member states agreed to ease movement of EAC nationals within East Africa for labour and services.
The protocol also made provisions that goods produced in a member state that are exported to a fellow member state will not be subjected to customs taxes while goods imported in one member state which are exported into another member state will be subject to a common tax regime.
This was to allow East African consumers access to a variety of commodities and at cheaper prices and for sellers to benefit from a wider market.
The member states had further agreed to progressively remove restrictions on the movement of services so that EAC nationals can freely supply services within the region.
Makuza called on partner states to implement the commitments agreed upon and hold each other accountable to ensure that no partner is left behind.
“We must all push our frontiers to effect the change we desire for our citizens. I urge this special gathering and the August House to seize the opportunity and push for swift implementation all pending commitment across all partner states,” he said.
In the implementation of the protocol and other integration initiatives, Makuza called on the regional Assembly to identify and address whatever was holding back the progress of the community.
One of the challenges, he noted, was the low participation of citizens of the region in drafting and formulation of the laws to ensure that they were in the best interest of the population.
“Our people must be involved and consulted in each step of the process as much as possible. The cost of failing to involve people ultimately is much higher than what is required to invest in citizenry participation in the decision making process,” Makuza said.
Over the next two weeks, the lawmakers will also examine two key Bills.
The two draft laws are the EAC Disaster Risk Reduction Bill 2013 and the EAC Forestry Management Bill 2014.
EALA Speaker Daniel Kidega said the partner states remained determined to seeing the integration pillars succeed, including the Common Market Protocol.