Kenya scoffs at US visa ban

October 28, 2009 12:00 am

, NAIROBI, Kenya, Oct 28 – Foreign Affairs Minister Moses Wetangula has said Kenya is not threatened by the continued US travel bans and announced that the government was planning to reciprocate.

While terming the continued travel bans as ‘meaningless’ the Minister said the sanctions imposed by America will not affect government affairs because officials “in the notorious list can still travel to America to attend UN meetings.”

He said Kenya was one of the four countries in the world under the UN charter which carry an extra obligation just like America, Switzerland and Austria.

“Under article 8 and 105 of the UN charter, none of these countries can deny a national of any member state entry onto their territory to transact matters to do with the UN on behalf of their country so this story about withdrawing and banning and so on is meaningless,” he said in response to Monday’s visit by US Assistant Secretary in charge of African Affairs Johnny Carson who announced the visa ban of yet another top government official.

Mr Wetangula told a media conference that “the continued travel bans were meaningless” and accused America of breaching diplomacy.

“It is with regret that an Assistant Minister of a friendly country walks into our country uninvited, makes fairly unacceptable and reckless statements and then leaves. It is not right,” he said.

And he did not spare the super power nation, choosing to use harsh words to drive his point home.

“I have commented on this before. I have told you that diplomacy expects some certain minimum acceptable standards of behaviour from the mighty and the meek, from the weak and the strong, from the poor and the rich. At the altar of diplomacy we are the same like at the altar of the church and the statements made by Mr Carson is totally out of order and is not in keeping with the expected norms of good diplomatic behaviour,” he said.

He maintained that Kenya was at will to send its officials to America, regardless of the fact that their visas have been revoked “as long as they are out on a UN mission.”

“So I want to urge our friends that we absolutely respect their right to grant or reject visas to Kenyans going to Washington or any other American city, but when we want to go to the UN, we will go to transact international business under international law,” he said defiantly.

“If the Kenya government wants to send a delegation to the UN that includes the three Ministers, and 12 other Kenyans who are on the notorious list, those countries that I have mentioned have a duty under the UN charter to let in nationals of any member state to transact business,” he said and denied the continued visa bans had affected Kenya/US relations.

“Our relationship with the US is not based on visas-granting and non granting-they have a lot of strategic interests in this region and we have trade relations with them, and then there are the security challenges and we are fighting piracy together; there are many many issues at hand. The visa issue is a drop in the ocean.”

The Minister revealed the US Embassy in Nairobi had communicated to him and given him details of the government official joining the long list of unwanted persons in America but declined to name the person.

“The ambassador has given me the name of the person whose visa has been revoked, but I don’t think he has done anything to warrant that kind of action,” he said.

Journalists curious to know the name even asked him to confirm if it was Attorney General Amos Wako as earlier speculated but the Minister instead challenged America to be “brave enough and disclose the names.”

“We are over 40 million Kenyans here, why does America want to make us look like we are all suspects in this by failing to disclose the name publicly?” he asked and cited diplomacy as the reason why he would not release the name of the individual Mr Carson was referring to when he jetted in on Monday.

Although he said the government was in the process of reciprocating in line with the available diplomatic channels, he did not disclose what specific measures would be taken to counter Washington’s move.

“The process of reciprocation is on. I cannot complain about their roof top diplomacy and do the same.”

“Kenya like any other independent and sovereign state has options and in diplomacy we have got the doctrine of reciprocity and we shall appropriately reciprocate on all issues that undermine our dignity as a nation,” he stated.

Asked if President Barack Obama had replied to President Mwai Kibaki’s protest letter on the visa bans, he said: “I am not aware of any reply; Mr Carson did not see the President, the Prime Minister or the Vice President. He wanted to see me but I was busy attending a parliamentary committee meeting.”


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