The Government of the Republic of Zambia has issued a circular waiving Visas and visa fees for all COMESA nationals on official business. Three other COMESA countries namely: Mauritius, Rwanda and Seychelles have also waived visas to all COMESA citizens.
This has been welcomed as progressive and paves the way for the implementation of the Protocol on Free Movement of Persons, Services, labour and Rights of Establishment and Residence in the region.
So far four countries (Burundi, Kenya, Rwanda and Zimbabwe) out of the nineteen have signed the protocol of free movement of persons. Only Burundi has fully ratified.
“Although, we have not recorded new signatures and ratifications, a number of Member States have showed their strong commitment and promised to speed-up the process of signing and ratifying the protocol. The Government of the Republic of Zambia has sent an official letter which stated that the Protocol will soon be signed,’’ Immigration Officer at COMESA Secretariat Mr Houssein Guedi Absieh revealed in an interview.
Kenya and Rwanda are firm believers in regional integration, as one of the key solutions to attain development. The two countries are already fully complying with the COMESA Protocol on the Gradual Relaxation of visas and are applying most of the provisions of the Protocol on Free Movement of Persons, Services, Labour and Right of Establishment which has not yet entered into force. The two countries have promised to ratify the Protocol.
In 2012, the Fifth Meeting of COMESA Ministers Responsible for immigration took a decision that the Secretariat should play a proactive role in engaging in direct consultations with Member States towards implementation of the Protocol on free movement.
In view of this, the Immigration Unit at COMESA Secretariat obtained funding amounting to USD70,000 from the African Development Bank (AfDB) for a Task Force to conduct direct consultations with eight selected countries (Comoros, Djibouti, Kenya Malawi, Rwanda, Seychelles, Uganda and Swaziland). The Task Force undertook the said consultative mission between October and November 2013 and met with target Authorities with particular emphasis on Parliamentarians, Civil Societies, Ministries of Home Affairs, Immigration Department, Coordinating Ministries and Law Associations of each country.
Apart from raising awareness, the campaign aims at promoting the signing and ratifying the Protocol on Free Movement of Person, Service, Labour and Rights of Establishment and Residence as well as the full implementation of the Protocol on Gradual Relaxation of Visa Requirements.