By Kampala Post Reporter
African Union supports the free movement of persons in the continent and will continue working with regional economic blocs to achieve the objective, the Deputy Special Representative of the Chairperson of the African Union Commission (DSRCC) for Somalia, Simon Mulongo has said.
The eight-member state Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD) is currently working towards making the free movement of persons a reality in the 5.2 million-square kilometer trade bloc.
The Authority launched a four-day national consultations workshop on free movement of persons in the Somali capital, Mogadishu, on Sunday, to gather views from local stakeholders and experts on the benefits and barriers of free movement of persons.
Mr. Mulongo, who was the chief guest during the launch of the consultations, welcomed IGAD’s initiative saying the move will help boost trade and economic integration in the region.
“The African Union believes in the freedom of movement of persons across the continent and is working with, and indeed encouraging regional economic communities and regional mechanisms to speedily come up with arrangements, policies and mechanisms that will guarantee the free movement of persons across the continent,” he stated.
Similar consultations are also being held in other member states and once finalized the views gathered will be used in formulating the IGAD Protocol on Free Movement of Persons, aimed at boosting trade and improving the opportunities for regulated labour mobility.
The trade bloc, which was established in 1996 to supersede the Intergovernmental Authority on Drought and Development (IGADD), brings together Kenya, Djibouti, Eritrea, South Sudan, Uganda, Sudan, Ethiopia and Somalia.
The Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Ambassador Ali Mohamed Ali, echoed Mr. Mulongo’s sentiments, saying the Federal Government of Somalia fully supports the initiative.
“We believe that the free movement of persons and goods is important to all the countries given that it will spur development. We all know how the European Union started and how people can now move by only using their identity cards,” noted Ambassador Ali.
The meeting in Mogadishu is being attended by senior federal government of Somalia officials, representatives of the federal member states, civil society organizations, academia and members of the international community.
In his remarks, Ambassador Jamaludin Mustafa Omar, the Chairman of the IGAD Council of Ambassadors, spoke of the numerous benefits the free movement of persons will bring to African countries, and appealed to participants to discuss and come up with proposals on implementing the initiative.
“This free movement of persons will help reduce poverty, and where people can move freely, there are opportunities which increase the potential for people to send back home remittances and change the lives of the people they left behind,” Ambassador Omar explained.
Speaking at the same function, Dr. Ahmed Hassan Ahmed, the IGAD Representative, noted that free movement of persons, will not only enhance regional integration but also boost economies and sharing of information.
For his part, the European Union Deputy Ambassador, Pencho Garriro, urged African countries to work towards strengthening economic cooperation to achieve integration and long term development.
“It is only in regional blocs and through integration that individual countries have the greatest chances to continue developing and offer greater opportunities to their citizens,” he said.
The IGAD project is funded by the EU Emergency Trust Fund for Stability and is aimed at addressing the root causes of irregular migration and displacement of persons in Africa.