I SHARE with Kenyans, not least the members of our Society, a sense of deep frustration over the apparently arbitrary placing of Kenya on the ‘red list’ of countries whose citizens are banned from entering the United Kingdom. The Government of Kenya has expressed its own regret and disappointment in no uncertain terms and taken retaliatory action.
For a start, it would be fair to be given the reasons for the British Government’s decision as, from a distance, Kenya seems to be taking the right steps to control the spread of the virus. This has been recognised by the World Health Organization (WHO). Furthermore, there has been a renewed focus from the Boris Johnson Government in its relations with Africa – not least the new economic partnership agreement between Kenya and UK to which the Kenya Government gave staunch support in the teeth of quite strong domestic opposition.
Yet, of the 40 countries now on the red list, 18 are from Africa, the continent with the least infections and fatalities. Africa and Kenya therefore appear to be right in crying discrimination, not least in view of the meagre rations of vaccinations handed out in comparison with the roll out in UK which seems swamped with vaccination opportunities for its citizens. Africa, however, is at the end of the international queue – as usual.
In this context, it might be worth looking at the figures. According to the published figures, slightly over 2,500 have died as a result of the pandemic in Kenya. The figure for UK is a staggering 127,000, among the highest per population in the world. This perhaps underlines the nervousness in UK of a possible ‘third wave’ of infection and the political consequences that would follow for the Johnson Government.
So what must Kenya do to be removed from the red list? Of the East African Community countries only Uganda is not on the list. So what is Uganda doing right? Next month, new guidelines opening up limited travel for tourists are being announced. At the moment I, as a British citizen, am actually breaking the law of the land if I try to go to Kenya for tourism reasons. And, as we all know, tourism is a critical industry for Kenya. But if Kenya is allowed to languish on the red list, there will be no hope for tourists from UK – who will have to quarantine for ten days in a hotel at their expense on their return. And, in the meantime, the utter frustration for many thousands of Kenyans living or working in UK who need the freedom to travel, will continue – not least for the many students planning to travel home for the Summer whose flights may be disrupted.
In view of what is at stake for so many – would it be possible for the British Government to at least give an indication on when the restrictions, and Kenya’s place on the infamous red list, will be lifted? Kenya, as one of the UK’s closest friends in Africa, deserves no less.
The author, Patrick Orr, is the chairman of Kenya Society UK and Executive Chairman of Raitt Orr & Associates.