IGAD Member Country Flags (File Photo)
By Jale Richard/agencies:
A meeting to discuss free movement of people in the IGAD region hangs in the balance as South Sudan Foreign Ministry could not confirm its attendance.
The meeting scheduled to take place in Kampala, Uganda from today was organized by the Inter-Governmental Authority on Development (IGAD) to discuss the free movement of South Sudanese, including refugees, in the eight-nation regional bloc, according to The Observer Newspaper of Uganda.
The two-day consultative meeting on the Protocol on Free Movement of Persons is scheduled for Tuesday, April 24th through April 26th at Sheraton Kampala Hotel.
It was to be attended by the ministers of foreign and internal affairs, MPs, immigration experts from member countries, IGAD secretariat officials and partner UN agencies on refugee and migration issues.
However, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation could not confirm whether the South Sudanese delegation would attend the meeting.
Ambassador Mawien, the Foreign Affairs Spokesperson told Juba Monitor that as of yesterday, he had no information about the meeting.
With more than one million South Sudan refugees living in Uganda, the country hosts majority of displaced Sudanese in the region.
An estimated two million South Sudanese refugees live in the IGAD nations, which include Djibouti, Ethiopia, Eritrea, Kenya, Somalia, Sudan and Uganda, the latter being the main supply route and major source of merchandise to and from South Sudan, making the former a strategic ally for the thriving formal and informal trade between the two nations.
Today’s meeting is a follow-up on first consultations, which IGAD held with South Sudan government officials and other national stakeholders in Juba last year.
Sharon Kuku, a communications officer at the Djibouti-based IGAD secretariat, said experts will deliberate on the provisions of the protocol and provide a political endorsement to fast-track its negotiation and adoption before the close of this year.
The Protocol on Free Movement of Persons is enshrined in the 1986 agreement establishing IGAD. It aims at facilitating the free movement of persons to enhance regional economic integration and development.
Once adopted, the protocol will also help in regulating the high volume of informal movement which currently takes place in the IGAD region.