Govt says visa pol­icy will not com­pro­mise se­cu­rity

The East African - - NEWS - By FRED OLU­OCH Spe­cial Cor­re­spon­dent Pic: Kalume Kazungu

THE KENYAN govern­ment has down­played con­cerns that the pol­icy of is­su­ing visas at the point of en­try for Africans that Pres­i­dent Uhuru Keny­atta an­nounced dur­ing his swearingin on Novem­ber 28 is likely to com­pro­mise the war against ter­ror.

Mwenda Njoka, the strate­gic com­mu­ni­ca­tions di­rec­tor in the Min­istry of In­te­rior and Co-or­di­na­tion of Na­tional Govern­ment, said that the is­suance of visas at the point of en­try has been go­ing on, and that those with bad in­ten­tions nor­mally en­ter the coun­try through other means than the for­mal route.

“The in­ten­tion is to make it eas­ier for the move­ment of peo­ple and goods in or­der to boost the econ­omy, es­pe­cially tourism. How­ever, we ex­pect rec­i­proc­ity from other coun­tries, es­pe­cially EAC mem­bers,” he said.

Mr Njoka said that Kenya has been work­ing closely with the US De­part­ment of State Ter­ror­ist In­ter­dic­tion Pro­gramme, which pro­vides the Per­sonal Iden­ti­fi­ca­tion Se­cure Com­par­i­son and Eval­u­a­tion Sys­tem, a so­phis­ti­cated bor­der man­age­ment tool to help the global War against Ter­ror­ism.

Real time bio­data

“Kenyan Im­mi­gra­tion re­ceives real time bio­data on each pas­sen­ger com­ing into the coun­try, which en­ables us to iden­tify ter­ror­ists be­fore their ar­rival,” he said.

Yet ob­servers are equat­ing the visa on en­try pol­icy to Pres­i­dent Keny­atta’s an­nounce­ment in Fe­bru­ary in So­ma­lia that the two coun­tries would re-launch di­rect flights from Mo­gadishu to Nairobi, which only re­sulted in one in­au­gu­ral flight be­fore it was sus­pended.

This an­nounce­ment alarmed the US, which has also been ne­go­ti­at­ing with Kenya for a di­rect flight.

Mr Njoka said the di­rect flight was meant to bring pres­sure on Mo­gadishu to im­prove its se­cu­rity and for So­ma­lia to ben­e­fit from it.

Fol­low­ing the in­creased at­tacks by Al Shabaab ter­ror­ist group in Kenya from 2014, the govern­ment has put in place sev­eral mea­sures to im­prove se­cu­rity, some of which have been con­tro­ver­sial, such as the Se­cu­rity Laws (Amend­ment) Act, 2014 that al­lowed surveil­lance, mon­i­tor­ing of pri­vate calls and e-mails.

“The law has al­lowed us to use tech­nol­ogy to fight ter­ror­ism, by en­hanc­ing the ca­pac­ity of se­cu­rity agen­cies to get in­for­ma­tion on ter­ror­ists that leads to con­vic­tion,” said Mr Njoka.

A po­lice ve­hi­cle at­tacked by sus­pected Al­shabaab mil­i­tants at Ny­on­goro in Lamu County on Novem­ber 28.

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