The New Times (Kigali)

Rwanda: Kenyatta Calls for a United Africa

Beginning next year, Kenya will adopt Rwanda's immigration model where African passport holders will obtain visas on arrival into the country.

The new development was announced by Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta during the country's celebration of 50 years of independence yesterday.

Rwanda's Prime Minister Pierre Damien Habumuremyi and a host of other leaders from Africa and beyond attended the ceremony.

Kenyatta said the move would accelerate implementation of the continental integration agenda.

"Today, we announce that any African passport will obtain a visa on arrival in Kenya," he told the thousands of Kenyans and guests at Kasarani Stadium.

However, Kenyatta added that the new model will be applied on the principle of reciprocity to countries which will offer Kenyans the same with the only exception being instances that can compromise national security.

"Under the arrangement, any African visitor may stay for up to six months. The only exception to this rule will be when regional security could be compromised," he said.

Rwanda is the only country that has opened its borders to Africans who travel to the country to receive visas upon arrival at entry points.

The decision was reached in part to remove formalities in visa acquisition from Rwanda embassies.

According to Ange Sebutege, the communications officer at Rwanda's Directorate of Immigration and Emigration, the visa on arrival policy has increased the number of tourists and business prospectors most of them from countries where Rwanda does not have an embassy or consulate and it has been a sign of goodwill in the promotion of continental integration.

Integration

President Kenyatta also detailed other initiatives that Kenya would embark on to promote the continental integration, most of them implementation of the integration programmes.

"Kenya will contribute to a brigade to be part of the Rapid Response mechanism as part of the Africa Peace and Security Architecture agreed during the last Assembly of AU Heads of State and Government," Kenyatta said.

He added: "Kenya is also ready to partner with our sisterly countries in the southern, central, western and northern regions, to fast-track the implementation of the recently adopted Continental Free Trade Area to sustain and enhance deeper investment in intra-African trade."

Another initiative will see Kenya offer technical support for the process and ease business processes and procedures among African countries.

Other initiatives that the East African country will undertake include fast-tracking the implementation of the African infrastructure programme within the Eastern Africa region and working with African countries to implement an integrated air transport and African open skies policy.

During a midnight vigil on the eve of the celebrations, Kenyatta slammed colonialism, saying Africans were better without it and had achieved massive progress in the absence of the former colonial masters.

"Over the years, we have strengthened our self-determination, individual freedoms and accountable government. Our independence has made us a greater, not lesser people. Africans are healthier, better fed, literate and richer than we were under colonialism. In time, we have overcome much to become a modern, open, democratic nation doing its best for its citizens and neighbours," he said.

He reminded his countrymen and the continent of the struggles and pain the freedom fighters and liberation had gone through to secure the continent from the imperialist yoke, calling for protection of sovereignty.

"Let us join hands to commemorate that golden moment, and to honour all those whose labour and sacrifice made it happen. Let us pledge eternal remembrance, gratitude and respect for their fine achievement, which has made it possible for us to live freely in a united country where our contribution counts. Let us dedicate ourselves to defending the freedom and sovereignty they secured at such great cost, and to resist tyranny and exploitation at all times. Let us stand united and committed to make Kenya, East Africa and Africa prosperous, peaceful and united."

This is not the first time the Kenyan president has spoken strongly against modern day colonialism.

During the African Union Heads of State Summit in October, Kenyatta said the continental body was formed to prevent countries from being controlled once again by outside powers.

Kenya achieved its independence from British rule on December 12, 1963, after years of sustained underground movements by the natives.

The Mau Mau movement was dominated by the quest to regain lost lands, especially in the fertile Rift Valley region that colonialists had apportioned to themselves.

Kenyatta is the son of founding president Jomo Kenyatta, one of the key pillars of the Mau Mau struggles against British colonialism in the East African country.

The independence celebrations was graced by more than 15 heads of state and government from across the world.

Kenyatta's thoughts on African unity were echoed by Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni, who congratulated the Kenyan people for defying what he described as "blackmail and western influence during the previous Kenyan elections to vote for their current leaders."

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