‘COALITION OF THE WILLING’ REJECTS SUGGESTION THAT COMMON VISA A SECURITY RISK
(Posted 24th May 2014)
Impeccable sources from across the three East African countries of Uganda, Rwanda and Kenya have confirmed that there is growing anger among the three over continued suggestions by Tanzania, that the recently launched common tourist Visa, which allows foreign visitors to enter all three countries on one cost reduced Visa, is a security risk.
While understandably none of the officials was ready to go on record they left no doubt either that their ‘bosses’ were fed up with the rumour mongering by Tanzanian officials with one specifically stating: ‘Let them stay out of the fast tracking union which Uganda, Rwanda and Kenya have formed to advance several key issues which were not going forward because one member country constantly slammed on the brakes. Let them stay out of the common Visa but at least honestly admit it is for their own political reasons. But let them also stop to give rubbish reasons like security risks. The three countries which have embraced the common tourist Visa are using all the same criteria to grant one common tourist Visa which they use to grant their single entry Visa for Uganda, Rwanda and Kenya. Suggestions that there are lower standards in place, that we are risking the security of our three countries by just issuing the common tourist Visa without checks and cross referrals to international data bases, are absolute rubbish and ill intentioned. All our border posts are linked to a common data base and use fingerprint and facial recognition technology for every person entering, be it our own nationals or our tourist visitors. With due respect, their minister has either been misled by his officials over the true picture or worse he is misleading the public. I can only say he should stop playing with security issues of which he may lack detailed information for the sole reason of his and his master’s mudslinging campaign. Sitta’s [Tanzania’s Minister for East African
Affairs] comments about the 1970’s are a dead giveaway where their mindset is and it is good this is coming out in the open for everyone to see’.
The common Visa is gaining growing popularity at a cost of 100 US Dollars for a three months tourist Visa, allowing the holder to visit Uganda, Rwanda and Kenya without added cost and bureaucracy, though on entry tourists are subjected to the same finger print and facial recognition entry procedures as every other person who has to obtain a Visa or even citizens of the three countries. In addition have the three countries started to exhibit under one expanded stand at major international tourist trade shows in order to portray the commonalities as one region with many attractions and while continuing to woo Burundi, a country where tourism has now finally risen to a higher standing on the national agenda, to join the initiative and benefit from increased visitor numbers.
‘It is sad that Kikwete has led Tanzania back to the 70’s mentality after Mwinyi and Mkapa were much more committed to engage with the neighbours in East Africa. The last 9 years of the Kikwete rule were marked by increasing lipservice but decreasing real engagement and integration with the partner states and that is an opinion which you will hear from the business community and the wananchi, even if our politicians are trying to be nice about it and use diplomatic language to gloss over the rift’ added a regular contributor from Kampala, echoing what has been said many times before to this correspondent during his travels across the region.
Added an air operator from Uganda: ‘As long as Tanzania insists on treating us like foreign airlines and prohibit us from flying our clients to points beyond the designated entry airports like Kilimanjaro or Dar, make us pay in Dollars and demand at least 48 hours clearance time, I see no real improvements the EAC has accomplished for the aviation sector. They launched CASSOA but that is increasingly seen as just another layer of bureaucracy because permits and approvals given by them still have to be duplicated by the national regulators, instead as we were promised serving as a one stop centre for the region’.
Considering the present challenges Kenya has after the knee jerk reaction by British touroperators to evacuate their tourists following an extraordinarily hostile anti-travel advisory by the British Foreign and Commonwealth Office last week, are neighbours Uganda and Rwanda standing by Kenya and from the look of it are intensifying their promotional efforts to portray the region as by and large a safe zone for tourist visitors who should not fear to visit the three countries and explore the range of unique attractions each of them offers.