WHAT DOES PRESIDENT KENYATTA’S DIRECTIVE ON VISA FOR AFRICANS AND IMMIGRATION WAIVER FOR EAST AFRICANS MEAN?

On Tuesday the 28th November 2017, President Uhuru Kenyatta was sworn in for his second and final term after a prolonged high octane election period. He gave a lengthy colorful speech full of hope and aspirations for the future. Two items caught my attention as an Immigration consultant because they are core to something I believe in.

Firstly the president directed that in the spirit of pan Africanism, ALL Africans should be given visas on arrival or the so called category 2 (a) in the Kenya Immigration Visa policy. He added that this will not be based on reciprocity as is the practice in Immigration practice. Important to note is that will benefit only a few countries: Somalia and Eritrea because the rest of the African countries are already getting their visas online or on arrival but still this is laudable.

Secondly and most fundamentally, the president directed that East African Citizens be treated as Kenyans in as far as Immigration processes are concerned. What does this mean? Ordinarily, for citizens of east Africa to travel to Kenya, they need a passport, temporary passport or National ID for Uganda, Rwanda and Kenya. They then must be cleared at the port of entry where they are given the duration they need to stay in country. If they need to work or do business in Kenya, such persons require an Entry Permit subject to meeting the set requirements. What the President’s directive means is that these people will only need to show their IDs at the point of entry and they are in to do business, get employed or get married without any additional process…just like citizens.

So then, is this a good or a bad thing for Kenya?

Well, from the face of, it looks well intended and in line with the aspirations of both the African Union and East African Community of a borderless Continent. I am sure this will be very good news to those that will benefit but not sure that Kenyans will feel the same. This morning as I was having my shoes polished, I overheard a discussion by ordinary Kenyans concerned about that move by the president on two things: one is security concern and two is influx of foreigners that will take over Kenyan jobs. I share similar sentiments in addition to the fact that all this puts no obligation on other countries whose citizens will benefit to accord similar courtesies to Kenyans because the president made it clear that this is NOT on reciprocity basis.

It is therefore my considered view that, once this is discussed by concerned agencies like Immigration Department, National Intelligence Services ( NIS), Foreign Affairs Ministry among others, there could be moderated implementation of the presidential directive. It is not lost on Kenyans that just a few weeks ago Kenyan herders had their cattle seized and auctioned in the neighboring Tanzania. Chicks from Kenya were burned alive at the Namanga border.

If the Kenyan public is not involved in the implementation of this directive either directly or through their elected representatives in Parliament, the well-intended gesture could see acrimony between Kenyans and the foreigners akin to xenophobia as we see in South Africa. I hope those that advise the president should get it right if this has to be well taken by ordinary Kenyans raising concerns.

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