COALITION OF THE WILLING PUTS FINAL TOUCHES ON PASSPORT FREE TRAVEL
(Posted 12th December 2013)
Experts from Uganda and Kenya will meet in Kigali before the end of the week to put final touches to the commitment made by the three Heads of State that come January 01st next year, now only three weeks away, citizens of the three countries will be able to travel across the region by using their national ID cards. This will be the case with Kenya and Rwanda, while Ugandans will be able to use their voters cards for the time being until the national ID project has been concluded.
As Kenya is celebrating her 50th anniversary of Independence from Britain are the citizens of the region, with Tanzania and Burundi sadly absent on their own volition, looking forward to easing travel to neighbouring countries without having to go through the process of acquiring a passport first, which for many is cumbersome and expensive.
It was also confirmed by a regular source in Kigali that the experts will be shown the newly printed common tourist Visa stickers which are now being distributed to the national immigration offices for use at the countries airports and land borders. Tourists wishing to visit all three countries, Rwanda, Kenya and Uganda, will be paying 100 US Dollars, a saving of 50 US Dollars compared to current practice where they must purchase individual Visa at a cost of 50 US Dollars each, and while the issuing country will ‘earn’ 40 US Dollars, which will include a handling fee of 10 US Dollars, the other two countries will get 30 US Dollars each.
The newfound partnership between Rwanda, Uganda and Kenya has so far produced some major commitments, among them to build a standard gauge railway, for which only recently ground was broken in Mombasa, but the passport free travel and the common tourist Visa will be the first tangible and real results for the people of the region, easing trade and travel for them.
There has however been no word on how from January onwards duly registered expatriates from among the three countries will be treated when they cross for instance from Uganda to Kenya, and if they will be spared from having to pay for Visa, an issue which in the past has regularly led to expat families rather travelling to South Africa or the UAE for holidays instead of going to the beaches of Kenya out of anger and frustration of having to pay for a family of 4 some 200 US Dollars. Repeated enquiries have been made towards that end but not one conclusive answer has been provided by any of the immigration departments so far, another damning indictment of how the mindset works vis a vis a hugely important segment of potential tourists, in particular for the Kenya coast which at present is suffering from a significant downturn in demand. Will they listen, CAN they listen and comprehend how the two issues connect? Time will tell come January 01st next year.