PIC: Internal affairs minister Gen. Jeje Odongo addressing journalists after attending the opening of the high-level IGAD meeting of experts on Tuesday. (Credit: Eddie Ssejjoba)
KAMPALA - Delegates from South Sudan, the latest entrant into the Inter-Governmental Authority on Development (IGAD), jetted into the country ahead of discussions on the ratification of the free movement of people protocol by member states.
The Government of South Sudan is pushing for the regularisation of informal movement of people that is currently taking shape in the region.
The four-day IGAD meeting was opened Tuesday at Sheraton Hotel in Kampala by internal affairs minister Gen. Jeje Odongo.
The eight-member trade bloc has Uganda, Kenya, Sudan, South Sudan, Djibouti, Ethiopia, Somalia and Eritrea.
According to IGAD officials, experts from South Sudan and other member states will discuss the proposed IGAD protocol on free movement of persons.
“This high-level experts meeting will bring together high level experts from ministries, authorities, commissions and parliament of the Government of South Sudan.
"The aim of this high-level experts meeting is for experts to deliberate on the provisions of the proposed IGAD Protocol on Free Movement of Persons,” a statement issued by IGAD over the weekend noted.
Foreign ministers from IGAD member states, delegates from the Europe Union, United Nations and key labour movement experts, are also expected to attend the meeting, where a political endorsement for fast-tracking the free movement of people protocol will be discussed.
With a never-ending conflict in South Sudan, it is estimated that majority of South Sudanese are living outside their country as refugees.
At 1.3 million, Uganda accommodates the largest number of South Sudanese refugees.
The right of residence in any IGAD member state, free movement of vehicles, transportation of goods and people, harmonisation of labour laws, policies and the provision of a safe environment for refugees, asylum seekers and pastoralists are the other key issues that South Sudan delegates want IGAD to implement.
IGAD officials said the Kampala meeting is a follow-up on the Juba meeting that was held in August last year, where South Sudan leaders urged member states to adopt and domesticate the protocol on free movement of persons.
The protocol is enshrined in the 1986 agreement that established IGAD.
But member states Djibouti, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Kenya, Somalia, South Sudan and Uganda have been reluctant to endorse it.
“It aims to facilitate the free movement of persons in the IGAD region in order to enhance regional economic integration and development and facilitate the regularisation of the high volume of informal movement that currently takes place in the IGAD region, in order to increase the opportunities for safe, regular and beneficial mobility,” IGAD officials said.