eliminating borders

Kenya plans to scrap visa for all international visitors

By Victor Abuso

Posted on September 7, 2023 09:41

 © A woman pushes her luggage at Jomo Kenyatta International airport in Nairobi, Kenya, where arrivals are soon to be visa-free.(Reuters/Thomas Mukoya)
A woman pushes her luggage at Jomo Kenyatta International airport in Nairobi, Kenya, where arrivals are soon to be visa-free.(Reuters/Thomas Mukoya)

President William Ruto says Kenya is considering abolishing any visa requirement for all international travellers.

Ruto, speaking to foreign delegates who attended the just-concluded first Africa Climate Summit in Nairobi, said he is mulling over eliminating visas for travellers visiting Kenya, where humanity began

He said, “Kenya is home to all,” following the discovery by scientists that the earliest remains of man on Earth were found in the East African nation.

“It is unfair to ask anybody coming home for a visa,” Ruto said, adding that his government is consulting and will soon make the announcement.

After taking power in September 2022, Ruto said his administration intends to eliminate visa restrictions for all African countries. While on a visit to Comoros in July, Ruto championed a borderless African continent, saying it would enable the free movement of people and goods.

“We should eliminate borders and turn them into bridges to promote trade and investment on our continent,” he said.

Pan-African dream?

Kenya has waived visa restrictions for nationals from Indonesia, Eritrea, Djibouti, and Comoros. Additionally, just last week, it added the Democratic Republic of Congo to the list, as it joined the regional body East African Community in 2022.

Benjamin Kasembe, a Congolese national who attended the Africa Climate Summit, supports Ruto’s sentiments.

He describes Ruto as a leader whose wish is to reawaken the Pan-African dream, which was championed by former leaders led by Ghana leader Kwame Nkrumah.

“I’m glad to be among the last Congolese to pay for a visa to visit Kenya. This is the Africa we want,” he tells The Africa Report.

Josiah Mulama, a Nairobi-based businessman supports Ruto’s idea. He tells The Africa Report that abolishing visa requirements in Kenya will attract more investors and create more jobs for Kenyans.

“Ruto’s idea is brilliant. Allowing more visitors will boost our economy,” he says, adding that the visa regulations should be abolished quickly. “Our tourism sector will also thrive,” he adds.

Consult Kenyans

Teacher Beatrice Kanjo returned to Kenya in May from Khartoum, Sudan, when the war started.

She told The Africa Report that the Kenyan government should not rush but should instead engage the public to weigh the advantages and disadvantages and prioritise the country’s security and interests.

“We are neighbours to unstable countries like Somalia and Sudan. Our security might be compromised,” she warns, asking Ruto to go slow.

Retired Chief Justice Willy Mutunga wants Kenyans to demand that they should be consulted, and their voices respected.

Mutunga points out that visa abolishment is a heavy matter and Kenyans should be directly involved and have a say.

“Kenyans should demand public participation in all these decisions. How do we use our direct sovereign power if not in cases like this?” he said on X.

Mutunga’s concerns have been echoed by human rights activist Boniface Mwangi, who wants the government to explain its intentions first before implementing this plan.

Kenya should not embrace that route but should instead relax visa requirements on a reciprocal basis, only with countries that respect Kenyans, according to political analyst Herman Manyora.

“No to a free visa. We need to maintain our dignity and pride as Kenyans,” he says.

According to Kenya’s Department of Immigration, apart from nationals of the East African Community states (Tanzania, Uganda, Rwanda, Burundi, South Sudan, and DRC) who are exempt from obtaining a visa, South Africa has also been added to the list, but only for visitors who stay for less than 30 days.

Other countries whose nationals don’t need a visa to visit Kenya include Zambia, Zimbabwe, Malawi, Ghana, Singapore, Jamaica, and Cyprus.

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