Uganda Pens Protocol Agreement on Free Movement within IGAD

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Uganda has signed the protocol on free movement of persons and transhumance in the Intergovernmental Authority on Development – IGAD Region, an eight-country trade bloc comprising Djibouti, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Kenya, Somalia, South Sudan, and Sudan.

The Protocol on Free Movement of Persons is enshrined in the 1996 Agreement that establishes the IGAD. Article 7(a) and 13(o) of the Agreement call upon IGAD Member States to deepen regional integration through creating a regime of free movement of persons, and right of residence, among other things.

The Movement of Persons Regime aims at facilitating options for secure livelihoods for populations living in fragile ecosystems faced with the adversity of frequent droughts and floods from climate change. The Protocol will also facilitate a higher volume of regional trade, improved access to social services, and improved governance of rural areas.

Gen. Abubaker Jeje Odongo, the Minister of Foreign Affairs who was accompanied by the Deputy Attorney General, Jackson Kafuuzi Karugaba and officials from the Ministry of Gender, Labour and Social Development signed the protocol during an event convened by IGAD Secretariat at Serena Hotel in Kampala on Tuesday.

Speaking at the event, IGAD’s Executive Secretary Dr. Workneh Gebeyehu said the free movement regime is in line with the aspirations of the Authority and African Union’s (AU) Agenda 2063, which advocates for free movement within regional economic communities.

Dr. Workneh regretted that the IGAD is behind schedule on the instrument in comparison with other regional economic blocs on the African continent such as Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), Southern African Development Community (SADC), and the East African Community – EAC among others.

Meanwhile, Uganda’s Protocol Gen. Jeje Odongo; the Minister of Foreign Affairs equally lamented that the Protocol on Free Movement of Persons in the IGAD region is long overdue, 36 years since IGAD was founded in 1986.

The event was also witnessed by representatives of partners from the International Labour Organization (ILO); The International Organization for Migration (IOM); The Food and Agriculture Organization – FAO, and Foreign and Commonwealth Development Organisation (FCDO) among others.

Uganda now becomes the 5th Member State to ratify the protocol after Sudan (May 2022), Republic of South Sudan (June 2022), Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia (November 2022) and Federal Republic of Somalia (March 2023).Other member states that includes Kenya, Djibouti and Eritrea are yet to comply.

The Protocol on Free Movement of Persons was approved by the IGAD Member State Ministers in charge of Internal Affairs and Labour in 2020. Earlier in 2013, the Summit of the IGAD Heads of State and Government adopted a Minimum Integration Plan to serve as a road map for regional integration, with the free movement of people as a key pillar.

In 2018, the AU adopted the African Economic Community and established the Africa Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) to champion the Protocol on Free Movement of Persons in Africa,  Rights of Residence, and Right of Establishment to create a single continental market for goods and services.

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