By Jale Richard
JUBA, [Gurtong]-IGAD member states include Ethiopia, Djibouti, Kenya, Sudan, Uganda, South Sudan, Eritrea (inactive) and Somalia.
IGAD secretariat started a three day meeting on Wednesday with officials of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation, Ministry of Interior and civil society organizations seeking their inputs to the document. Similar meetings have also been held in Djibouti and Uganda.
The consultative workshop aims at gathering information on barriers and benefits to free movement of persons in the IGAD region; generating national recommendations towards the provisions of the protocol on free movement of persons in the IGAD region, and to drive national inputs in to the development of the road map for the negotiation and conclusion of the protocol on free movement of persons in IGAD region.
Deputy Minister of Interior, Riaw Gatlier Gai said South Sudan will look in to the document and deliberate on it so that all challenges facing IGAD member States in regard to free movement of people can be addressed.
He said there are a lot of challenges facing South Sudan regarding free movement of people since majority of South Sudanese are illiterate.
“When you come to movement of workers, those about 70 percent who are illiterate will not go anywhere to seek for jobs while those in other countries will be coming here to get what they are looking for which is a challenge to us,” he said.
Gai also said there is a challenge of movement with arms in regard to the pastoral communities.
“If free movement is allowed then many arms could enter some countries,” he said.
However, Gai said he hopes those challenges will be addressed by relevant legal frameworks suitable for every member State.
IGAD Executive Secretary Ambassador Mahboub Maalim said the consultative meeting is aimed at getting the views of IGAD member States in regard to free movement of its people.
He said the benefits of free movement have been clearly demonstrated by the European Union and he believes that the IGAD region will have the opportunity to move freely and own property in any IGAD member State.
Ambassador David Buom Choat Director for African Union and IGAD in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation said free movement of people will not entirely be free but some regulations will be put.
“When you have people of the region moving within the region, any country will make sure that their national interests are there and the national interests are to protect the security of the nation,” he said.
Choat said within the protocol, South Sudanese would also benefit through getting jobs in other countries in the IGAD region.
The head of Mission of the European Union (EU) delegation, Stefano De Leo said free movement of people would benefit the region through accessing the welfare system of other countries.
He said promoting peace; values of well beings of human rights are possible if countries share the same goals and the same territory.
De Leo said free movement of people includes equality, respect for human rights, democracy and rule of law “because member States that come to share the vision have to recognize that they are interdependent, have to work together and have to cooperate to achieve a given goal.
He said the challenge is to harmonize all the external border controls in order to avoid challenges of terrorists and preventing other people to enter the region.
De Leo said there should also be a common visa policy.