PUBLISHED ON September 1st, 2014

Burundi plans to join CoW as an observer

Burundi plans to join the Coalition of the Willing (CoW) as an observer for six months before deciding whether it will be part of infrastructure projects being pushed by Kenya, Uganda and Rwanda to expedite regional integration.

Burundian Minister for East African Community Affairs Leontine Nzeyimana told the Senate that the government feels it was not wanted by the partners after it was not invited to some of the meetings.

“We are going to be observers in the tripartite meetings for a period of six months,” she said without disclosing what the country’s position would be thereafter. Burundi had last year threatened not to consider any proposals from the meetings to which it was not invited.

The move by Burundi leaves Tanzania as the only member of the East African Community that is not in the coalition in any formal capacity.

According to the Common Market Scorecard 2014, Burundi has the least number of non-tariff barriers in the EAC and is a key exporter of services in the bloc

Under CoW, Uganda, Kenya and Rwanda have already implemented free movement of people provided they have identity cards or voters cards and single tourist visa. Burundi stands to gain from such an incentive through visits from tourists who started their itinerary in any of the three countries.

Pilot programme

Burundi launched a pilot programme for registering and issuing machine readable IDs but the project was postponed until after elections slated for next year.

In January this year, Kenya, Uganda and Rwanda started issuing a single tourist visa whereby Kenya would take 40 per cent of revenues while Uganda and Rwanda split the rest between them.

Under the arrangement, tourists wishing to visit Kenya, for example, will be required to pay $100 for a 90-day visa that will also enable them to tour Rwanda and Uganda, in a scheme aimed at making the three countries a single tourist destination.

Another milestone in their co-operation has now seen citizens of the three countries use their respective national identity cards as official travel documents to any of the CoW partners.

The three countries have also signed an agreement to jointly fight transnational crime, especially terrorism.

The agreement, which was signed in February in Kigali by Defence Ministers James Kabarebe of Rwanda, Crispus Kiyonga of Uganda and Raychelle Omamo of Kenya sought to address the security challenges that may come with free movement of people within the region.

The three countries are also investing in a standard gauge railway (SGR), which will fast-track movement of goods from Mombasa port to Uganda and Rwanda.

In February, Rwanda, Kenya and Uganda signed an MoU with the African Development Bank in Kampala on the financing modalities of the project.

Late last year, Dar es Salaam strongly reacted to its isolation from the Coalition of the Willing meetings, with President Jakaya Kikwete saying some of the projects being implemented by CoW were under discussions by various organs of EAC.

Source URL: The East African

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