Traveling without a passport or visa, which is a right within the European Union, may soon be possible for around 135 million people in East Africa. Since January 1, Kenya, Rwanda and Uganda have allowed their citizens to travel freely across the three countries. At border control stations, an identity card, whether for work, school or voting, is all that’s required. Travelers no longer suffer high visa costs and nerve-wracking administrative processes.
That’s because Kenya, Rwanda and Uganda are members of the East African Community (EAC). Their goal: more inter-African trade through a common market with unified immigration and custom laws. “We must deepen trade amongst each other,” said Kenya’s President Uhuru Kenyatta, current EAC chair. “This way our private sectors will develop the strength, resilience and stature needed to take on the world.”
Burundi and Tanzania also belong to the EAC. At this point, both countries have kept their borders closed due to fears of terrorist attacks by members of the Somali al-Shabaab militia. Tanzania is the only country bordering all four EAC countries, says Samuel Sitta, Tanzania’s minister for East African Cooperation.
Sitta criticizes that technical requirements for free travel have not yet been mastered: As before, border control machines cannot read all passports. “Fragile arrangements are a security threat,” he said. “Our region has no peace, and as we speak, there is war in South Sudan.”[Full story]