In a surprising move, President William Ruto announced on Tuesday that Kenya will abolish visa requirements for all visitors starting from January 2024. The decision, which was made without prior consultation with the parliament or the public, is aimed at boosting tourism and trade in the country.
According to Ruto, the visa-free policy will make Kenya more attractive and accessible to foreign tourists, investors, and businesspeople. He said that the policy will also foster goodwill and cooperation with other countries, especially in the African continent. He added that Kenya has nothing to fear from opening its borders, as it has adequate security measures and health protocols in place.
However, the announcement has sparked mixed reactions from various stakeholders and experts. Some have welcomed the move as a bold and progressive step that will enhance Kenya’s image and economy. They have praised Ruto for his visionary and courageous leadership, and for breaking away from the colonial legacy of restrictive immigration policies.
Others have criticized the decision as a reckless and irresponsible gamble that will expose Kenya to various risks and challenges. They have accused Ruto of acting unilaterally and disregarding the views and interests of the Kenyan people. They have raised concerns about the potential influx of illegal immigrants, criminals, terrorists, and diseases into the country.
The opposition leader, Raila Odinga, has condemned the policy as a political stunt that is meant to woo voters ahead of the 2024 general elections. He has challenged Ruto to explain how he will ensure the security and welfare of the Kenyan citizens, and how he will compensate the loss of revenue from visa fees. He has also demanded that the policy be subjected to a national referendum, as it affects the sovereignty and identity of the nation.
The visa-free policy will take effect on January 1, 2024, and will apply to all visitors regardless of their nationality, purpose, or duration of stay. Kenya will join a few other African countries, such as Seychelles, Rwanda, and Mauritius, that have implemented similar policies in recent years. The policy is expected to have significant implications for Kenya’s relations with the rest of the world, as well as for its social, economic, and political development.