KIGALI - The free movement of people and land use are among the major contentious issues in the ongoing negotiations on the East African Community (EAC) Common Market Protocol.
This was revealed by Rwanda’s Minister for the East African Community, Monique Mukaruliza, during a news conference held yesterday to update on the negotiations.
Main features of the protocol are summarised into what is dubbed as the “four freedoms” that include; the free movement of goods, services, persons and capital within the community.
Teams from the five member states of the EAC will meet in Kampala, Uganda, early next month in what is hoped to be the last round of the negotiations.
“The issue of land use is still very sensitive, we have different land policies in our countries,” said Mukaruliza, who is also the current Chairperson of the EAC Council of Ministers.
Members of the bloc are yet to agree on whether they have to allow equal rights in the process of land acquisition from any area of the community.
Some of the controversial issues have required some negotiators to consult their countries’ laws and policies before they can make a decision.
“Some issues may be too sensitive that they require political guidance,” said Prudence Sebahizi, Rwanda’s Chief Negotiator in the talks.
The negotiations have so far reached agreement on the free movement of services, economic and financial sector policy coordination, common transport among other principles.
Outstanding are issues to do with equal rights on land use, Residence permits, cooperation in intellectual property rights and many others.
“We hope to get positive answers in the next negotiations,” Sebahizi said of the upcoming round of talks in Kampala.
It is now almost a year since the EAC member states launched the negotiations on the establishment of the ‘Common Market’ in order to deepen the region’s integration.
The protocol’s implementation is expected to begin in January 2010 after its ratification by the bloc’s Partner States.