ARUA. A section of locals in the West Nile region of Uganda have asked the East African Political confederation to make a law that would guarantee free movement of the people in the member states and a common currency.
They argued that some East African member states have restricted movement of citizens from other member countries by levying heavy taxes on them thereby creating an unfavorable condition for cross-border trade within the region.
This was during a stakeholder consultative meeting for drafting the constitution of the proposed East African Community political Confederation held on Wednesday in Arua city.
They recommended the confederation to strengthen relationships among the partner states, avoid the emergency of military governments, promote regional education for all East Africans to freely study in any member state, have one language and promote human rights.
They also want to have common markets with a common currency for member states among others.
“Many of us travel. Some of the countries allow us to use our identification cards (IDs) in which they can recognize us as East Africans, but there are those particular ones like South Sudan that do not want us. We have been intimidated to that effect. So, if we are East Africans, then we have to remain as East Africans in all ways”, Ms Grace Goro, a representative from Koboko said.
The mayor of Arua city, Alhjaji Isa Kato said allowing free movement in member states would solve challenges of unemployment as cross-border trade is enhanced in the region.
“Allowing free movement in East Africa will help in raising the economy by carrying out businesses freely and that one alone will solve challenges of unemployment due to mobility of labour among citizens of East African Community member states and if such an initiative is embraced by East Africa Confederation, the region’s economy will rise as unity among member states will improve”, the mayor noted.
Meanwhile, youths said there is need for the confederation to consider approaches to environmental protection and climate mitigations, adding that leaders be elected through the electoral college system while persons with disability also advocated for their issues to be addressed in the confederation.
Chairperson of the committee of experts drafting the constitution of the proposed EAC political Confederation, Justice Benjamin Odoki said the constitution is meant to strengthen the East African Community through a Confederation, which he said acts as a transitional model to the Political Federation of East Africa.
He noted that having a good constitution cannot be fully achieved if stakeholders are not consulted for their input in the process of drafting the constitution.
He explained that the idea of a political confederation is to have a central authority for all the member states for easy conflict resolutions, promotion of intergovernmental relationships and coordinating issues among members without the member states losing their sovereignty.
“Before we can make the constitution for the confederation, the people must be heard because people are at the centre. People want to trade together and they want to move freely within the borders, but it has not been allowed. So the idea of the confederation is to have a central political authority which will be coordinating the heads of states and national governments”, Justice Odoki said.
In Uganda, the consultation has been undertaken in Kabale, Mbarara, Mbale, Gulu, Arua and will conclude with Kampala in which representatives from the six East African Community states of Uganda, Kenya, the united republic of Tanzania, Burundi, South Sudan and Rwanda have been part.
The May 2017 Summit of East African Community heads of states adopted a political confederation as the transitional model to the political federation.
A team of experts was then appointed by the Summit in February 2018 chaired by Justice Benjamin Odoki, the retired Chief Justice of Uganda and deputized by Busia county Senator, Amos Wako, who is also a former Kenyan Attorney General.