Gov't commends IGAD on free movement of persons protocol

By Henry Sekanjako

Uganda is one of the nine member states which form the IGAD region.

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The Ugandan government has welcomed the protocol on free movement of persons, within the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD) region, saying it will promote trade and employment opportunities for IGAD nationals.

Uganda is one of the nine member states which form the IGAD region.

The region faces multi-faceted migratory patterns and member states are home to both internal displacements (IDPs) and refugees.

The other group of migrants within the region is the economic migrants who are in search of better economic communities.

However, speaking during the national consultative meeting towards the IGAD Protocol, on free movement of persons in the IGAD region, in Entebbe on Wednesday, Obiga Kania, the state minister for internal affairs said the protocol will enforce coordinated movement of IGAD nationals within the region.

"Uganda is in support of this protocol because it will facilitate trade and employment within the region. We need a large market for our economies to grow," Obiga said.

The overall objective of the protocol is to eliminate obstacles to the movement of persons into and within the IGAD states.

The IGAD draft protocol, which is being examined by different IGAD states, also aims at facilitating entry for a lawful purpose and without a visa, into a territory of other IGAD member states for bonafide visits and in accordance with the laws of the member states concerned.

It aims to grant both permanent and temporary residence, as well as the right of establishment and the right to work in the other IGAD member states among other rights and privileges.

Obiga however implored pattern states to deal with issues such as conflicts within states, which may fuel undeserved migration within the region.

"As IGAD, we need to address causes of migration, Uganda hosts 1.3 million refugees people who are being forced to migrate," Obiga said.

He appealed to IGAD to support Uganda's efforts on hosting refugees mainly from IGAD member states such as South Sudan, adding that the number of refugees in the country is set to hit 1.5 million by December this year.

Representing the Executive Secretary IGAD, Fathia Alwan, the incharge of migration and governance at IGAD, hailed the Ugandan government for its refugee policy which she said has enabled refugees in the country to live happily.

"Uganda has been a model country on vulnerable people in the region. It also has experience on the East African Common Market. It is this experience that we want to tap into, for the formation of the IGAD protocol on free movement of persons," she said.

During the consultative meeting, the experts raised issues of insecurity, increased terrorism cases which they said are likely to come with free movement of persons in the region.

However Dr. Mehari Maru, the IGAD expert on migration, noted that with the engagement of local communities and vigilance by the locals, issues of insecurity can be dealt with.

"Communities on our borders should heavily be involved to ensure that security is guaranteed. Security is when communities are highly involved. Free movement doesn't mean free of any travel procedures," Dr Mehari said.