THE NEW TIMES
by Eric KABEERA
A Rwandan poses with a passport. Citizens of Uganda, Kenya and Rwanda will, effective January, use national IDs to cross borders of the three states. The New Times/Timothy Kisambira
Officials from the East African Community tripartite partner states are scheduled to meet in Kigali tomorrow to discuss the final modalities of using national identity cards as travel documents.
In 21 days, citizens from Rwanda, Uganda and Kenya will be able to travel among three countries using their national identity cards and voter’s cards.
“We are ready to implement the project next month and intend to convene a meeting [on Friday] with other partners to look at how far they have gone, as well as discuss the modalities of implementing the project,” Pascal Nyamurinda, the coordinator of the National Identity Card Project, said on Tuesday.
Underscoring the need to expedite the process, Nyamurinda said once implemented the arrangement would help ease free movement of people, especially traders.
The project, to be implemented under a tripartite arrangement, was agreed upon during the June Entebbe summit in Uganda, where leaders of the three countries agreed to establish a single tourist visa, a single customs territory as well as fast-track a joint railway line project, oil pipeline, and adopt national identity cards as travel documents.
Rwanda was tasked to spearhead the single tourist visa, use of IDs as travel documents, as well as single customs territory.
Nyamurinda added that South Sudan, which has also applied to join the wider EAC bloc, will also be represented at the Friday meeting and will be expected to communicate when to join the tripartite arrangement.
How it will work
Initially, a coupon will be issued to travellers indicating that they have moved out of the country and when they return, the coupon would be left at the immigration offices.
However, with time, the process will go electronic to ease the process.
Ange Sebutege, the communications officer at the Directorate of Immigration and Emigration, said they were in the process of printing the coupons.
Monique Mukaruliza, the national coordinator of the tripartite initiative, earlier told this paper they were ready to implement the project among the three countries.
She said they had started printing the visa stickers and ready to start issuing them come January.
Heads of State are expected to officially launch the two projects during their 4th meeting scheduled for January in a place yet to be confirmed.
Steven Mugabo, a regular traveller, said the use of IDs as travel documents was a crucial initiative that would enhance cross-border trade.
“Not everyone in these countries can afford a passport and it’s sometimes bureaucratic to get it. The use of national identification cards will ease our movements especially the regular traveler,” Mugabo said.
Contact email: eric.kabeera[at]newtimes.co.rw
Source: The New Times