, NAIROBI, Kenya, May 5 – Kenya announced on Wednesday it had finally settled a month-long diplomatic row with the United Arab Emirates (UAE) that led to controversial visa rules that blocked non-graduate Kenyans from traveling there.
The move now means that thousands of Kenyan traders can now travel to Dubai, which is a popular business destination for imported consumer goods.
“We have discussed with our counterparts in the UAE and agreed to go back to the status quo and that decision (for Kenyans to possess degrees) has been rescinded,” Foreign Affairs Minister Moses Wetangula said.
He told a press conference held in his office at the Ministry headquarters in Nairobi that the issue was resolved after a meeting with his counterparts in Abu Dhabi.
“We held very fruitful discussions, and I am happy to inform you that the requirement for a degree to visit UAE for whatever reasons is waived,” he said.
He added: “It is one of those soft barriers that countries put as gates to their countries but this was, in my estimation, a bit overstretched.”
Mr Wetangula said the decision was punitive for Kenyans “because most of our nationals going to the UAE go there as businessmen… they go there to buy cars, tiles and all they need is money and not a degree.”
The UAE imposed the tough visa rules last month to retaliate against an incident in the Coastal town of Mombasa in early April when four of its nationals were arrested by officers from the Anti-Terrorism Police Unit (ATPU), detained briefly before being deported to Dubai.
Reports suggested at the time that those arrested were people with links to a royal family in the UAE.
The surprise decision by the UAE drew mixed reactions from Kenyans intending to travel to that country and those already working there who urged the government to intervene.
President Mwai Kibaki subsequently dispatched the Foreign Affairs Minister there to meet UAE officials in order to resolve the stalemate.
Mr Wetangula told journalists that Kenyan diplomatic representatives in Abu Dhabi were finalising the issue “and expect everything to be normal by tomorrow (Wednesday).”
“We have discussed the matter and everything is okay now. Anyone applying for a visa to Dubai and gets a problem should get in touch with my ministry which is always ready to assist,” he said.
Statistics available at the Ministry shows that up to 60,000 or more Kenyans live and work in the UAE while hundreds more travel there on a daily basis for business trips.