FREEDOM OF MOVEMENT FINALLY COMING TO EAST AFRICA
The East African Community has over the weekend announced that citizens of member states, wishing to reside in one of the other EAC countries, will now be guaranteed immigration clearance for 6 months at a go without the previously often used 30 days limit being continued.
The new rule however is presently only an intermediate step of the full freedom of movement, envisaged by the founding spirit of the EAC, as those wishing to work, at least in some member states, still require to obtain a work permit, unless exempted by an additional bilateral treaty as for instance in place between Rwanda and Kenya. There the respective nationals can both reside and work in the other country without additional bureaucratic hindrances.
A range of enabling protocols and regulations are presently being rolled out and implemented, leading to eventually a full free movement of goods and people across the region without the national border posts then having to play much of a role, if any.
National non tariff barriers and failures of the region to implement a fully functional and compatible ID card system has been largely blamed for the slow pace of permitting East African citizens to move freely between countries, making the use of passports mandatory, as for instance Uganda does not have a national ID card which in the future will permit the crossing of borders within the EAC, as long as all countries are compliant.
EAC passports, presently in any case only valid to travel within the EAC, are also not being issued at the moment as new technology is being introduced across the region to make the travel documents machine readable, while diplomatic efforts continue to ensure a wider recognition permitting holders to travel beyond just East Africa. Growing together in the region continues, albeit at a slow pace where much patience is still required to see the full privileges of the old EAC once again restored for the people of the region.