According to the East African Community (EAC) fast tracking program the free movement of goods, services, labour and people within the region is slated for 2010.
This means that we basically have only one calendar year to the implementation of this Common Market protocol.
Within 12 months, members of the High Level Task Force (HLTF) who are the negotiators have up to April 2009, from the earlier deadline of December 2008 to finalise the draft protocol, with a meeting scheduled for each month.
The meetings will handle outstanding issues while also considering new areas fundamental to the protocol that were adopted onto the agenda.
Some of the new issues include consideration of schedules on trade in services, institutional reforms of the community and intellectual property rights.
After three months of negotiations, HLTF will forward a draft protocol to the Council of Ministers for their consent on matters agreed upon.
The Ministerial Council will also discuss issues that are pending and require their jurisdiction.
Upon failure, heads of state will also be tasked to decide on the contentious issues, not forgetting that they need to consider national policies and laws. Whatever the decision, heads of state will then ratify the protocol at the end of the year.
This will pave way for its implementation. The heads of state will also decide on the outstanding issues that might have failed to reach consensus during negotiations right from the technical term (HLTF).
In this respect, 2009 can be regarded as the judgement year for the establishment of the vast EAC Common Market with a population of over 100 million people from Burundi, Kenya, Rwanda, Tanzania and Uganda.
The establishment of this vast market is said to be a platform to have a monetary union and a regional political federation by 2013 with a single president and parliament.
However, analysts are quick to point out that for this to be fruitful and achievable as planned while the clock counts, there is need for the devotion of all the five member states during the ongoing policy harmonisation.
So far , efforts towards the Common market protocol have been characterised by ups and downs. Some members of the regional economic bloc have been deliberately back tracking on the negotiations.
For example, at the beginning of the negotiations early last year, one member opted to miss out due to issues related to domestic duties opting to request for a postponement of negotiations.
Therefore, none of its HLTF members attended the meeting though the EAC Secretariat did not grant the requested country permission for postponement.
The same member who missed out asked for rescheduling of the second meeting to supposedly enable it to make further consultations.
The right of establishment also falls under the same bracket where the right to acquire or access land in another partner states for economic activities was objected to by certain parties such as Uganda and Tanzania.
In this case, Tanzania maintained the position that the ‘acquiring or accessing’ the clause in the article be deleted completely, arguing that ‘it is not a Common Market issue’.
These among other factors brought about the failure to finalise the protocol in the mandated time of December 2008 before extension.
The negotiators in response requested the Ministerial Council for more time to finalise the technical works for the draft protocol, which time was granted.
Unlike before, some level of commitment has been expressed and sound agreements have been reached. For instance the recently ended talks in Gishenyi, Rwanda was undertaken within an environment whereby all issues reached a consensus.
Some of these included institutional reforms, environmental matters, and social policy. HLTF also handled some outstanding issues such as common transport policy and trade in service.
It is therefore true that this year calls for nothing but commitment from all partner states to see the dream programme become a reality.