The so-called coalition of the willing comprising Kenya, Uganda and Rwanda has continued with its East African Community bloc integration effort without Tanzania and Burundi.
It has emerged that experts from Kenya, Uganda and Rwanda met in Kigali on Thursday to advance discussions on how to implement the directive of their heads of state to have a single tourist visa available from 2014 onwards, to enhance the flow of tourist visitors across the three countries without additional fees.
This comes after the East African Community Council of Ministers officially sought clarification on why the three countries have been running a parallel integration agenda that sidelines the other two partners.
Early this month the Council directed its chairperson, Uganda’s EAC Affairs minister Shem Bageine, to prepare full information on the blossoming alliance between Kenya and its landlocked neighbours Burundi, Rwanda and Uganda.
“The Council requested the chairperson of the Council to provide more information on these developments to the Council at its 28th Meeting,” the ministers said after their meeting earlier this month.
The EAC secretariat has denied any divisions, saying the region’s treaty allows members to sign pacts for implementing milestones agreed at regional level as long as there was room for others to join when ready.
But the “coalition of the willing” went a step further in its Mombasa meeting last month by resolving for fast track the political federation.
“The issue of passport-free travel also came up for discussion, with a proposal that nationals of the three countries should only be able to use ID cards or voter registration cards to travel from one member state to another,” said a source who attended the meeting.
According to reports, another summit will be held in two months in Kigali to review what the panel of experts has agreed on before implementing visa and ID travel arrangements.
One of the things agreed as far as the single tourist visa is concerned is that the cost of $100 for a document covering all three countries will be shared equally, with each country being allocated $30 while the first entry point country will get a further $10 for administration cost.
“The information (on single tourist visa) was received with great enthusiasm by the tourism sectors of the three countries where hopes are high that the measures will increase the number of visitor and revenues,” Mr Thomas Steinmetz of the eTN, a travel news website, said.
It was pointed out though that provisions must be made for duly registered expatriates resident in any of the three countries to travel freely across the borders without having to pay additional fees from January.