STARTING July 2010, there will be free movement of people, labour and services across the East Africa Community (EAC). This follows the conclusion of the Common Market Protocol negotiations last week.
â€œIt is a happy day for the East African Community,â€ Juma Mwapachu, the EAC secretary general, said at the Imperial Royale Hotel in Kampala.
The heads of delegations of the five partner states signed the final draft protocol bringing to a close 18 months of intense haggling among the states.
Mwapachu disclosed how each of the five states of Uganda, Tanzania, Kenya, Burundi and Rwanda had ceded ground or compromised for a deal to be reached.
One area of contention that was referred from the April meeting in Kampala was the issue on permanent residence.
â€œThe issue was after how many years can someone be eligible to enjoy permanent residence in another country. This will now be based on national laws,â€ said Mwapachu.
The other unfinished business was on use of identity cards across member states, right of establishment and the movement of people and workers. In July 2010, the heads of states will pronounce themselves on the implications the common market will have on the region.
â€œWe want the heads of state to sign the (protocol) in a football stadium like Nakivubo in a real and galvanised mood,â€ said Mwapachu.
Mwapachu noted that the region awaited anxiously whether the opening up of the regionâ€™s economies would leverage economic activities and jobs.
â€œWill the prices of goods go down,â€ he asked.
The legal and judicial teams together with attorney generals of the partner states will convene in Mwanza, Tanzania this month to make the negotiated document legally binding before it goes to the full council of ministers, who will then take the document to the heads of states.
The implementation process, according to Mwapachu, will have two phases, beginning with the ratification process by all the states.
â€œWe have given six months for the ratification process to go through. After that the heads of states will announce its commencement.â€
Alloys Mutabingwa, the deputy secretary general of the EAC in-charge of planning and infrastructure, said mechanisms for the smooth running of the common market would be in place by next year.
â€œEach and every matter has been discussed and concluded amicably.
â€œIt is, however, one thing to have the protocol and another to implement it,â€ said Mutabingwa.
Mutabingwa disclosed that all partner states had agreed on all issues that were before them during this multi-sectoral council.
â€œA monitoring and evaluation component has been introduced,â€ Mutabingwa said.
East Africa agrees on common market