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Rwanda Parliament has passed the Bill approving the ratification of the Protocol on the Free Movement of Persons, Labour, Services and Right of Establishment and residence within the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA) member countries.

This was one of the items on top of the agenda of the second Ordinary Session of the Lower House of Parliament that kicked off Tuesday 7 June 2016.

Rwanda is among the four countries among 19 COMESA States that have signed Article 4 and 6 of the Treaty requiring member states to remove obstacles to the free movement of persons, labour and services, right of establishment for investors and right of residence within the common market. The others are Burundi (which has already ratified it), Kenya and Zimbabwe.

Explaining the relevance of the Bill relating to that agreement, Hon. Venantie Tugireyezu, the minister in the Office of the President, said approval of the legislation will spur trade and investments among COMESA countries through guaranteeing a genuine common market whereby citizens of the member states can move freely within the common market; take up employment offers, among others.

“The ratification of this protocol is important in boosting the development of policies aiming at building a knowledge based economy, including those directed at enhancing investments, free movement of labour and skills attraction to fill the gap in the Rwandan labour market,” the Minister told the lawmakers.

The minister added that ratification of the agreement will encourage other member states that are hesitant in taking a progressive step to ratify the protocol.

Should the Bill be signed into law, Rwanda, as member of the trading bloc, will fully enjoy integration benefits, including ease of business sector, improvement of investment climate, knowledge transfer, security cooperation, infrastructure development, resource transfer and Diaspora management.

Reacting on the Bill, lawmakers expressed concerns on plausible reasons that have led to the delay of ratification of the agreement and asked the minister to shed more light on what losses Rwanda might have endured in the absence of the law.

The Minister said that the causes for delays on ratifying these treaties vary from one country to another and their priorities.

Minister Tugireyezu said although countries might find it relevant and profitable to form economic blocs, many have been fronting their reservations, which leave no room for pressure or gradual accountability.

“We are restrained on the fact that we can’t put pressure on others although there is a common protocol and road map we have all signed, and this calls for more advocacy at all stages,” the minister said. (Extracts from The New Times Newspaper)