KAMPALA, The Inter-governmental Authority on Development (IGAD), the eight-nation Horn of Africa bloc, has launched a consultative process among member states which is expected to lead to a pact to enable the free movement of peoples within the sub-region, says IGAD Secretary-General Mahboub Maalim.

When IGAD was established on Jan 16, 1986, one of its core objectives was to enable the free movement of peoples among its member states, Maalim said here Monday at the opening of a three consultative meeting to discuss "The Protocol on Free Movement of Persons in the IGAD Region".

One of the core ambitions of IGAD was to enable migration. Unfortunately, we have been dogged by many challenges such as internal conflicts in member States. We were thus forced to focus on priority areas such as peace, security and disaster management, he added.

He said regional co-operation had been vital in solving conflicts in Somalia and South Sudan, citing Uganda's key contribution in stabilising both nations.

Migration is not about to stop anywhere. People cross borders every minute. It is unfortunate that many of the migrants dying in the Mediterranean Sea are from the IGAD region, yet we could have worked out a mechanism to help them by easing intra-regional migration. And that is why the entire world is concerned about migration, said Maalim.

The three-day consultative meeting here has brought together key players in the migration sector, including civil society organizations, academia, the private sector, the media, the Police, the military, and the Ugandan ministries of health, internal affairs and foreign affairs.

Uganda's State Minister for Regional Co-operation, Philemon Mateke, who opened the meeting in Entebbe, near here, said Uganda joined IGAD to foster regional co-operation and it welcomes the idea of free movement as enshrined in the 1991 Abuja Protocol, establishing the African Economic Community.

We shall borrow experiences from the East African Community (EAC) which has to some extent succeeded in establishing free movement of persons and a Customs Union. There are also great lessons from the Economic Community of West African states (ECOWAS) as stated in the ECOWAS Protocol of 1997 and the 1998 COMESA (Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa) Protocol on free movement of persons, the minister said.

Mateke called on IGAD member states -- Djibouti, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Kenya, Somalia, South Sudan, Sudan and Uganda -- to promptly pay their contributions to the regional body and not default, adding that free movement of persons will create more opportunities for the citizens of the region and enhance trade and investment among member states.



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