By Athan Tashobya/http://allafrica.com
The long-awaited Pan-African passport was launched, on Sunday, at the opening ceremony of the 27th Ordinary Session of the Assembly of the African Union.
Dr Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, the Chairperson of the African Union Commission, handed two representational African passports to President Paul Kagame, and to the Chairperson of the African Union, President Idriss Deby of Chad.
The move to launch the African passport was reached during the Summit in January this year, with the AU deciding that the passport would be launched in Kigali, starting with Heads of State and Government, with Foreign Ministers, the leadership of the Representatives of the AU Executive Councils and Organs.
“We’ve been overwhelmed by requests and enquiries of other ministers, officials, and African citizens to share in this privilege of holding an African passport,” said Dlamini-Zuma.
She told the summit: “Our teams during the course of the two days shall capture the details of other Excellencies, Heads of State and Government, so that you too shall receive your African passports.”
Dlamini-Zuma urged Heads of State to create conditions for member states to issue the passport to their citizens, “within their national policies, as and when they are ready.”
“I am glad to be the first African citizen to hold the African passport, and of course my brother Paul (Kagame),” said President Deby.
“These are great steps we are taking. Our Union has great ambitions in order to ensure economic and political integration.”
Many see the launch of the Pan-African passport as one of the milestones for this year’s AU Summit-with expectations that it would facilitate the seamless mobility of Africans and ease trade across the continent, consequently leading to the continent’s economic transformation.
The passport seeks to create advantageous visa-regimes across the continent and later on create a pathway for a visa-free Africa, under the AU agenda of the “African We Want”
Through his Twitter handle, Lamin Manneh, the One-UN Rwanda Resident Coordinator, described the launch of the African passport as “One of the high moments” of the summit.
Last week, Louise Mushikiwabo, the Minister for Foreign Affairs and Cooperation, said Rwanda has moved ahead, with popularising the Pan-African passport, with modalities already in place to print and issue the sophisticated travel document sooner than later.