Legal Framework for Free Movement of People Within Africa – A View from the East African Community (EAC)
Cross-border movement of persons within Africa has been an important aspect of African regional integration since the 1970s. Since then, various treaty frameworks have been put in place to facilitate the free movement of people seeking employment in other African countries, as well as those crossing borders for purposes like study, visit or business transactions. While all those instruments were adopted through Regional Economic Communities (East African Community [EAC], Economic Community of West African States [ECOWAS], Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa [COMESA] etc.) on the sub-regional level, the African Heads of State came up with the Free Movement Protocol in 2018, which is the first treaty instrument governing cross-border movement on the continental scale. The Protocol is meant to draw upon the experiences in the African sub-regions. However, as a matter of practice, the migration policies of African states have been viewing migrants rather as a risk to national security and the local labour market. The present article analyses the regulatory approach taken by the Free Movement Protocol (FMP) against the backdrop of the sub-regional instruments. The focus is not only on the treaty texts, but also on their political and ideological underpinnings as well as the practice of implementation. By comparing the various sub-regional legal frameworks, the article pays particular attention to the experience of the East African Community, regarded as one of the most advanced sub-regional integration regimes.