|3. May 2009
East Africa: EABC Welcomes Decision On Common Market Protocol
The East African Business Council (EABC) has welcomed a decision taken by the East African Community (EAC) Heads of State summit on the contentious issue of the draft Common Market Protocol.
In a press statement obtained by The Sunday Times, the EABC described as a "positive step" and a demonstration of commitment by the Heads of State to protecting national sovereignty of partner states in EAC negotiations without compromising the spirit of the community.
The 10th ordinary Heads of State summit took place last Wednesday at the Ngurdoto Mountain Lodge in Arusha, Tanzania.
During the negotiations that climaxed in Kampala last month, Tanzania objected to land ownership issues among the items within the protocol as well as opposing the use of national identity cards as travel documents within the region.
But Charles Mbogori, the EABC Chief Executive Officer, said the decision to allow the use of identity cards as travel documents on bilateral basis will promote free movements of citizens among member states that are in agreement without alienating those that are opposed.
"This will facilitate doing business in the region and promote the spirit of integration," he said.
The decision also conforms to a recent judgment passed by the East African Court of Justice (EACJ) which ruled that the principle of variable geometry is in perfect harmony with the requirement of consensus in decision-making at the EAC.
Variable geometry is a principle in regional integration whereby some members within the community can move faster than others on some matters.
The summit directed that identity cards shall not constitute acceptable form of travel documents on EAC-wide basis. However, partner states that are ready to use identity cards as a travel document on a bilateral basis can proceed.
Mbogori said the summit had also taken a positive step on the contentious issue of land by laying ground for eligibility of persons resident in partner states.
A communiqué by the five Heads of State stated that the granting of related rights to access to land and establishment should not be automatic but should lay basis for eligibility.
The EABC chief added that the decisions made at the summit were positive in that they left the door open for future negotiations.
EABC is an apex body of business associations in Rwanda, Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania, and Burundi with the aim of promoting private sector's regional and global competitiveness in trade and investment.