Igad legal and policy experts now validate visa-free movement

Monday November 23 2020

Foreigners charged with being in Kenya unlawfully without valid visas or passes. This could become a thing of the past if a new protocol is passed. PHOTO | FILE | NMG


The Inter-Governmental Authority on Development (Igad) has validated a roadmap to implement the protocol on free movement of persons, which is expected to take 10 years.

This was arrived at a high-level legal and policy experts meeting of the regional body held in Entebbe, Kampala on November 16-17 and was also endorsed by the Igad committee of ambassadors and ministers in charge of migration and labour. Upon adoption by the region’s summit, the roadmap will ease cross-border mobility for its 270 million people, improve regional economic integration and development.

The roadmap is awaiting adoption by the Igad Council of Ministers and Assembly. The report also said the roadmap needed to be validated by the experts of member states and then submitted to the Igad Council of Ministers and the Assembly as annex to the Protocol.

Currently, nationals of the eight Igad member states require visas to travel around the region, but experts say after the 10-year implementation of the roadmap will do away with this.

“We are embarking on a historic journey for our region. This process of implementation will be long but very significant,” said Fathia Alwan, the Igad director of social development.

Facilitating adoption


For Kenya and Uganda, the adjustment will be easy as they already apply visa-free travel under different trading blocs such as the EAC and the Comesa that they are members of.

Ms Alwan said implementation of the protocol that paves the way for free movement of the largely youthful population seeking social services but also business people in the region, and will be phased to provide for preparatory, execution and evaluation, priorities, expected outputs and outcomes.

These are ongoing efforts by Igad, which is currently implementing additional actions during the period 2020-23, funded by the European Union Trust Fund to facilitate the adoption, ratification and domestication the free movement of persons and transhumance protocols in the region.

Nationals of Igad member states require visas to travel to the bloc’s countries, which constrains mobility – an issue that the region has been working to remove for four years since 2017, according to Lucy Daxbacher, the senior immigration expert in Djibouti.