The Kenyan Immigration Directorate has introduced changes to its travel authorization system, causing confusion among Ugandans who frequently travel to Kenya. The announcement, signed by Mr. Evelyn Cheluget, the Director-General of the Kenya State Department of Immigration and Citizen Services, introduced the use of the Electronic Travel Authorization (eTA) system and exempted citizens of the East African Community (EAC) states, including Uganda, from application fees for the first six months.
The newly implemented eTA system replaces the traditional visa system in Kenya. Travelers, excluding those exempted, are now required to apply online at least three days before their intended travel to Kenya, with an application fee of US$30 (Shs114,000) per visitor. The system came into effect on January 1, 2024, raising concerns and uncertainties among Ugandans residing or frequently visiting Kenya.
According to Mr. William Kidima, a leader of Ugandan traders in Mombasa, there is ambiguity surrounding the fate of Ugandans after the initial six-month exemption period. He mentioned that Kenyan authorities conveyed that Ugandans could operate freely in Kenya for the specified period, but details about what follows after six months remain unclear.
Efforts to seek clarification from Kenya’s Interior Ministry officials, including Permanent Secretary Mr. Julius Bitok and Communications Officer Mr. Nixon Ng’ang’a, proved futile as our messages went unanswered by press time. The lack of official communication adds to the uncertainty among Ugandans regarding potential future travel requirements and fees.
The situation is compounded by the fact that some Ugandans have interpreted the Kenyan Immigration statement as imposing fees and stringent measures on EAC travelers. The eTA system necessitates a fresh application every time a traveler exits the country, introducing a waiting period of three days for processing. Additionally, visitors may be required to provide financial details, letters for medical reasons, invitation letters for business-related visits, and details of accommodation bookings for family visits.
Mr. William Busuulwa, Chairman of the Uganda National Transport Alliance, highlighted concerns about the applicability of the new system for Ugandans, particularly those lacking computer skills. He emphasized that many operators, including truck drivers who frequently cross the border, may face difficulties adapting to the new system.
Despite efforts to seek clarification from both Kenyan and Ugandan officials, a clear picture has yet to emerge. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Uganda could not be reached for comment, with calls to State Minister John Mulumba going unanswered, and attempts to contact Ms. Rebecca Kadaga, the Minister for East African Affairs and First Deputy Prime Minister, proving unsuccessful.
With an estimated 150,000 Ugandans visiting Kenya annually, the lack of clarity and communication regarding travel requirements adds to the uncertainty among citizens and underscores the importance of addressing these concerns promptly.