12 February 2008

Kenya: U.S. Tight-Lipped on Travel Ban Threat List

Nairobi — Major international airlines operating in Kenya are yet to receive the list of politicians and businessmen who risk travel restrictions to the United States.

The US embassy in Nairobi has since last week sent letters to 13 leaders in political and business circles, which could see them denied entry visas to the country.

Speaking for the British Airways, Ms Mary Maina of Advance PR, said they had not received the names.

Ms Yvonne Tharau of Kenya Airways also said the airline had not been contacted on the travel bans while another official of Qatar Airways, who declined to be named, said in the event an embargo is recommended, the firm will treat it in confidence.

Business leaders

Mr Steve Kisaka, a marketing officer at Emirates, also said they had not been given the names.

Officials of Virgin Atlantic, the newest international operator in the country, could not comment on the issue.

US Embassy in Nairobi sent the first batch of eight letters to the Kenyan leaders on Tuesday last week.

On Friday, deputy spokesman for the US State Department Tom Casey disclosed an additional five letters had been dispatched.

However, he was tight-lipped on the identity of the victims who he described as "Kenyan political and business leaders."

Speaking in Washington DC, on Friday last week, Mr Casey said: "We had the eight letters that were handed out or distributed on February 5. I understand there have been an additional five letters today that have been given.

"We can describe them as Kenyan political and business leaders and the letters, just as the previous ones do, indicate that these people are suspected of having been engaged in incitement and promotion of violence in the post-election period in Kenya."

"The letters notify them that we are reviewing whether they shall or should remain eligible for US visas."

In a statement, Mr Casey said more leaders found to have taken part in the violence were likely to be denied visits to the US in future.

Pundits suspect that threats by the US, Canada and the United Kingdom in threatening certain individuals with travel restrictions was meant to force the protagonists in the crisis to strike a deal.

Former UN boss Kofi Annan is chairing the talks.

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