Terrorism shouldn’t hinder free movement

President Uhuru Kenyatta flanked by Deputy President William Ruto is taken through a demonstration on the use of National Identity card for free movement within the East African Countries by Immigration officer Gladys Kang'ethe.

Life in prison is what the young men who carried out the twin terrorist attacks in Kampala on July 10, 2010, will face, according to a judgement meted out recently.

That attack came just days after the launch of the EAC Common Market on July 1. The years after that incident have been no less eventful — Westgate and Garissa University College happened in devastating fashion with several other cases of terrorism, leaving in their wake terrified citizens, affecting lives in sundry ways, and sending security organs back to the drawing board.

As with international travel, related security matrices across the region have been revised, with greater surveillance on cross-border travel. Thankfully, the integration agenda in the EAC has somewhat ebbed on, helped in no small measure by enhanced cooperation among the security actors.

And this is as it should be. Anything less would be too costly, both in terms of a concerted (regional) effort to defeat terrorism and the huge opportunity cost of deferred attainment of key integration milestones.

 

Optimism greeted the synchronised signing (across EAC) of the protocol on July 1, 2010. In Kenya, then president Mwai Kibaki scrapped work permit requirements for all EAC citizens seeking to work in Kenya and asked his counterparts to reciprocate. Only Rwanda did.

Traders (both large and small) across EAC are no doubt beginning to feel the impact of integration. The Nyamakima traders association in Nairobi (95 per cent composed of women) is an example. Members source for their grain and cereal stocks from Malawi, Tanzania, and Uganda. They feel the positive impact of integration and anticipate more.

Regional giants such as Unga, Bidco, and Azam (Bakhresa) have succeeded in part because partner states defied the fear brought about by terrorism to harmonise investment policies, incentives, and laws. That is how banks such as Kenya Commercial Bank and Equity of Kenya and Exim of Tanzania found the mojo to set up operations away from home.

FREE MOVEMENT I

n its unabridged version, the EAC Common Market Protocol provides for free movement of people, goods, capital, and services, with free movement of people standing out as the anchor, for when people move, so do goods and services

The protocol envisaged a situation where an Uwimana from Bujumbura, a Mbabazi from Kasese, an Etyang from Kapenguria, a Majuok from Juba, an Akamanzi from Ruhengeri, or a Kirenga from Mbeya, armed with start-up capital or professional qualification, could easily cross into the neighbouring country, go to the nearest Huduma Centre or its cousin, and register a business.

And it went further — that if Akamanzi were to arrive with her husband and children or fall in love with Njaba, her classmate in the evening MBA class in her new country, courtesy of a harmonised education system, their names or origin would not hinder their love. The new family would be eligible to enjoy social security and the available national medical insurance as if they were in their motherland.

In protocol parlance, there would be no discrimination of nationals of other partner states on grounds of nationality. It gets even better: the protocol removed restrictions on the right of establishment and residence of nationals of other partner states, meaning that the hypothetical citizens above would have the right to live, work, and do business in Tanga as they would in Kampala, Nairobi, or Juba.

As those five young terrorists begin their lengthy terms in prison, they leave in freedom millions of other well-meaning youth across East Africa to whom borders mean little in their search for livelihoods. For their sake, our renewed security alertness should not become another non-tariff barrier.

Mr Kiraka is a consultant for Comesa and executive director, RiimNet-Africa. This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

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