Human rights commissions in the East African Community (EAC) have agreed to harmonise policies on rights and freedoms within the five member states of the regional grouping.
The agreement was reached during the just-concluded third meeting of the EAC National Human Rights Commissions that took place on Monday in Arusha, Tanzania.
Speaking to The New Times, Peter Karemera, a Commissioner in the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC), said that the forum reviewed the draft EAC Rights Bill.
“The EAC draft Bill intends to harmonise the rights and freedoms in the partner states and examines national constitutions and other international and regional instruments with a view to standardize and adopt international best practices,” he explained.
Karemera added that the fundamental principles of the Community contained in Article 6 of the EAC Treaty, include good governance which embraces the principles of democracy, the rule of law, transparency, social justice, gender equality as well as the recognition, protection and promotion of human rights.
“The good governance principle is a pillar to human rights commissions in our bloc since it is in line with all the fundamental principles of the human rights,” he said.
According to officials, the draft Bill was initiated by the national commissions and facilitated by Kituo cha Katiba (Centre for Constitutional Development), a regional organization with an observer status at the EAC.
The Bill contains 45 articles which include fundamental rights, right to fair hearing, protection of freedom of conscience, expression, religion and assembly, right to information, protection of freedom of movement, right to contest elections as an independent candidate, protection of minorities, rights of children, rights to property, rights of women, rights of persons with disabilities and protection of the elderly.
Officiating at the meeting, the EAC Deputy Secretary General (Political Federation), Beatrice Kiraso, said that the importance of adopting common standards on protecting and upholding human rights in EAC cannot be under-estimated, especially in view of the stage at which the integration process has reached.
“With freedom of movement and rights of residence and establishment, East Africans should be accorded equal treatment across the five Partner States,” she said
She added that EAC has taken a bold decision to put in place a Protocol on Good Governance which will prescribe standards that are in line with international requirements.