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Zimbabwe journalist terms Kenya’s new visa-free policy ‘fake and silly’

Zimbabwe’s award-wining international journalist and filmmaker Hopewell Chin’ono has rubbished President William Ruto’s visa-free policy for foreigners planning visit Kenya. In his statement, he said that Kenya “is not telling the world the truth” about its new visa regulations because foreigners still had to part with money before being granted entry into the country.

“Dear Africans, Kenya is not telling the world the truth when it says that it is now visa-free, it is not! It has in fact made traveling there more difficult for Africans who didn’t need a visa before, and I won’t be going to Kenya unless it is for work because of its new silly visa regulations!

Visitors to Kenya are now required to apply online for an electronic travel authorization in advance of travel, we didn’t need to do this before Kenya’s fake visa-free announcement. Going to Kenya is now tougher for a Zimbabwean and many Africans because we didn’t require a visa at all, we would just walk in and out. Now, you need to apply for authority online!

Also read: Free-visa regime? Why Kenyans will still need to apply for visas to go abroad

That is not visa-free, African leaders play mind games for headlines! This policy change has affected travel convenience for Africans going to Kenya and it will definitely costs money to the host country if travelers choose not to go. Why do I need to pay US$30 (Sh 4,745) and wait for three days to go to Kenya when I am using my African passport when I can go and spend my tourist dollars in Cape Town without this travel authority nonsense?

Sometimes you really wonder why Africans complicate things that should be so simple. Kenya has a right to impose visas, but it shouldn’t lie that it is now visa free and say that it had made traveling there easier when it has made it worse!” said Mr Chin’ono.

His sentiments were echoed by Africans from various countries who also complained of this new charge upon entry into Kenya when they were never charged anything during prior visits. Nairobi News sampled some of them below:

South African Nahva Nyambenis said, “I was hoping people who actually been to Kenya in the last six months, in fact who have been to Kenya since Covid 19, would come and clear this up. But the arrogance of African officials is simply, “We don’t care what you think of us”. I was in Kenya six months ago, I filled that thing online within 10 minutes. I saw there was a fee, but that thing recognises that you are from a visa-free country. What has changed? But that form has always been there, and they had randomly asked for it, the only time I took a chance and go without it was when I tried to fill it within 24 hours, and the system rejected it. It was not demanded, I orally gave the information at the counter. The fee was always there but once you fill in your information, the fee fell away at check out, when it recognizes that you are from a visa-free country. I was asking if everyone now pays?”

Also read: Details of new system that will replace visas to Kenya

Zimbabwean Gerry Mantairo added, “This is a clear money-making mechanism, Hopewell, that doesn’t make sense. Why not make it visa upon arrival and make people pay the 30 USD on arrival instead of inconveniencing travelers. A Zimbabwean I know had a layover in Kenya of more than 12 hours. Upon attempting to exit the airport to a nearby hotel, he was asked to pay the 30 USD 😞 meaning to say the implementation of this ETA is not really systematic and well understood by the staff.”

“One day on my way to Somalia, I got frustrated at Jomo Kenyatta International Airport Nairobi where the immigration officers were asking me silly questions. Africa is not yet free. We still depend on colonial laws,” revealed Leonard Koni.

However, others were of the opinion that Mr Chin’ono should not think that ‘visa free’ simply meant open borders for anyone to pass through as they please without some form of accountability to the host nation.

Despite intentions to go visa-free, Kenyan authorities clarified that visitors must obtain electronic travel authorization and pay the $30 processing fee for all citizens of Africa visiting Kenya even if they accessed the country freely in the past.

“Before ETA, citizens from 51 countries enjoyed visa-free entry to Kenya, while travelers from 155 other countries were subject to a visa application process at a cost of $50. With the introduction of the ETA, we now have comprehensive data on all visitors, significantly improving our ability to ensure the safety and well-being of both our visitors and citizens,” said Ambassador Julius Bitok, the Principal Secretary in the State Department of Immigration and Citizen Services.

Bitok noted, “To guarantee a seamless experience, we have introduced a 24-hour service desk dedicated to ETA. This will ensure clients are promptly attended to irrespective of the hour while also taking into consideration the different time zones across the world.”