Source: New Vision (Kampala)
By Cris Magoba
The year 2014 started on a good note in the annals of EAC integration. This is because it started with a new travel experience for EAC citizens. This is the use of the national Identity Card as an authentic travel document between Uganda, Kenya and Rwanda. The development was a result of initiatives agreed upon under the Northern Corridor Integration Projects (NCIP).
The NCIP started as a tripartite engagement of three Presidents, Yoweri Museveni (Uganda), Paul Kagame (Rwanda) and Uhuru Kenyatta (Kenya) at Entebbe, Uganda on June 25, 2013, to discuss how to co-operate and expedite implementation of commitments agreed upon under the EAC arrangement. It was initially meant to speed up the flow of cargo, construction of the Standard Gauge Railway, crude oil pipeline and refined petroleum products pipeline.
It later, however, expanded to include extra clusters that handle ICT, Oil Refinery, Political Federation, Financing, Power Generation, Transmission and Interconnectivity, Commodity Exchanges, Human Resource Capacity Building and Land. In addition, there are also Clusters that handle Immigration, Trade, Tourism, Labour and Services, Single Customs Territory, Mutual Defence Cooperation, Mutual Peace and Security Cooperation and Airspace Management.
It was against this background that the three Heads of State agreed to recognise the National Identity Card as a travel document within the EAC in addition to the national passports and the EAC passport. (The EAC passport has since been upgraded to a new generation e-passport to replace national passports and its issuance has been planned to commence this year).
Thus, in earnest, for more than three years now (since January 2014), citizens of the three partner states do not need a passport to crisscross each other’s borders.
The use of national IDs at the exit/entry points is clear demonstration that the benefits of how a new momentum in the integration process, championed by the three leaders is continuing to trickle down to the citizens. It also enables citizens of the three countries to spend up to six months in any of the three countries without requiring any other documentation. This is expected to foster social cohesion among East African citizens.