18 March 2019

Uganda: IGAD Drafts Protocol to End Border Restrictions

Kampala — The Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD) has drafted a new protocol to resolve cross-border restrictions among member states and cause easy mobility of people, goods and services.

During the high-level experts technical review meeting at the Commonwealth Speke Resort Hotel in Munyonyo, Kampala on Monday, the technocrats said the new protocol was drafted on a unanimous decision by all IGAD member states as prescribed in the 1966 IGAD establishment agreement, trade unions and the East African Community.

The draft protocol seeks to address four major freedoms among which are; "Movement of people aimed at abolishing visa, labour mobility, establishment of businesses and residence."

Dr Mehari Taddele, the IGAD lead expert, said currently there are many border conflicts within African countries and the problem has been caused by absence of a direct protocol to address the issues.

"By the time the first protocol was made, there were no problems we are seeing right now like fights at borders. These have been mainly caused by countries assuming sovereignty, political affiliations and trans-border issues. The new protocol will tackle these issues," Mr Taddele said.

"We also want to see that we develop infrastructure and also abolish visas in the region," he added.

The protocol comes at a time when Rwanda and Uganda are engaged in a trans-border conflict. About three weeks ago, Rwanda closed its busiest border with Uganda at Katuna. The closure has hurt transport and businesses between the two East African states and left the business community on either side counting huge losses.

By last week, Katuna border town in Kabale District that used to operate 24 hours a day was reported to be a shadow of its former self.

Ms Fathia Alwan, the IGAD director of health and social development divisions said the new protocol would handle such border dispute issues within the member states.

She said countries such as Ethiopia and Kenya had good working relations in the times of former presidents, Jomo Kenyatta and Haile Selassie, until recently and the protocol will look at such issues.

"Some conflicts are within the member states and we shall bring them to a round-table and handle their issues. For the others we hand them over to AU [Africa Union]," Ms Alwan said.

She said the protocol will also address issues of drought, famine and climate change among member countries.

Ms Alwan said another review meeting comprising at least seven members from each country will be held to scrutinise the draft protocol.

"Final draft will then be presented before the IGAD main council of ministers who will approve it before it is passed by the General Assembly," she said.

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