NAIROBI, Kenya, Oct 19 – As a demonstration of its commitment towards the East African Community (EAC) integration process, the government has announced that it is exploring the use of the national identify card as a travel document.
Immigration Minister Otieno Kajwang disclosed on Wednesday that the implementation of the move would help facilitate the free movement of people across the bloc.
“We are looking at the possibilities of using IDs as a travel document and we are doing this bilaterally with Rwanda. This means that sooner or later, if you want to go to Rwanda, you’ll just need your ID and the same will apply for Rwandese travelling to Kenya,” he explained.
The use of IDs as the ideal travel pass has been one of the contentious issues in the bloc’s negotiations and has been rejected by Tanzania which cited security concerns.
This is despite the fact that by elevating it as a standard travel document within the bloc, member states would be facilitating the free move of persons, a right that is guaranteed in the Common Market Protocol.
Rwanda has on its part been championing this cause and has been calling on the sister states to convene a forum to address the modalities of using the cards.
Already, it is the only country in the region that has adopted the third-generation national IDs with the other members still dragging their feet.
And although Kenya has announced its intention to go the Rwanda route and adopt the cards as the standard travel documents, it is not clear when the country will have in place the biometric IDs.
In spite of this hindrance however, the minister said the government was intent on easing the movement of Kenyans into the region and would in the meantime decentralise the issuance of travel passes from Nyayo House.
Henceforth Kajwang said, Kenyans will be able to obtain their temporary travel permits from all points of entry which he said would be open 24 hours.
In addition, the government plans to open up six more border posts – at Rongai, Sand River Gate, Ntimaru and Njukini – with Tanzania and at Amdat and Lokiriama with Uganda in order to give more Kenyans the opportunity to venture into and exploit the single market region.
The government also wants to be hospitable to other East Africans and will now be issuing all East African visitors wishing to enter Kenya with six months passes, he added.
The move was designed to show that Kenya is taking leadership in driving the integration agenda forward.
“We have taken certain steps together with our partners in the EAC but others we have taken unilaterally to provoke other partners to join us,” he said.
A lot of benefits have been achieved in the community with trade increasing by Sh10 billion since 2010 when the implementation of the Common Market Protocol kicked off.
However, many still concur that for the region to attain its dreams of transforming into an industrialised bloc with greater economic development and improved livelihoods for the citizen, there is still a lot to be done.
Chief among them will be making available to the East African citizens, the information on the opportunities that exist in the region and how they can exploit them. This is what has informed the launch of initiatives to help create awareness on the benefits that the regional integration process portend.
In line with this sensitisation campaign, the Ministry of the East African Community has unveiled another intensive drive that will see it involve the citizens through the use of traditional and new media.
EAC Minister Musa Sirma expressed optimism that the campaign dubbed ‘The Journey is on course; Uhuru wa Kujistawisha’ would have a great impact on the people and would provide further impetus to the integration agenda.