Kenya calls on African countries to change immigration rules


Prime Minister Raila Odinga challenged African governments to review their immigration rules to facilitate easier movement of citizens within the continent.

Addressing a panel on the future of democracy in Africa at the World Economic Forum in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, the PM said stringent immigration rules the continent imposes on its citizens have hampered trade and frustrated efforts to create unity.

He said the founders of a liberated Africa envisaged a continent that embraced citizens of the various nations but today African states are too busy defending the poverty within their borders instead of opening up and allowing their citizens exploit the resources from other nations to eradicate the poverty. Raila blamed suspicion and poor leadership as impediments derailing growth of the economy. He lamented that Africans view each other with more suspicion than they do immigrants from other continents.
“A Senegalese trying to get into South Africa or Nairobi is likely to be asked more questions than a European. A Kenyan who decides to drive to West Africa is likely to be stopped more times than a white man who does the same. There is something wrong with the way we treat our citizens across national borders and it must change if we need to trade,” the PM said.

These suspicions and poor leadership Raila said have led to a situation where the continent is not able to focus on resources at its disposal that could be exploited through joint efforts. He singled out power shortages on the continent saying Africa could have cheap electricity by exploiting solar resources. “Africa is chocking under scorching sun. People come all the way from Europe just to bask in the sun. But instead of tapping this natural resource for solar power, the continent is chocking under massive power shortages and losing investors because of high cost of energy.

Then we turn to Europe and other countries that have no sun at all to help us get power,” he said.

He said democracy was taking roots in Africa but it iss being frustrated by mass poverty that has made people vulnerable to manipulation. The PM said for democracy to grow, African governments must address the question of poverty. “With mass poverty, whatever the government does, people will always feel the government is not doing enough and they will not hesitate to come to the streets to protest and throw out that government. We must address poverty if we want stability,” Odinga said. “We must agree that when we go to elections, there will be winners and losers. And we must not say the elections were flawed but they are okey by African standards. The rules of democracy must be universally applied. There is no African and European democracy,” the PM said. The forum was also attended by South African President Jacob Zuma and former AU secretary general Salim Ahmed Salim.