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Monday, March 3, 2008

Karua blocked from travelling to Switzerland as visa bans take effect

The list of Kenyans banned from travelling to some European Union countries and the United States grew to 20, even as mystery deepened over a Cabinet minister blocked from travelling to Geneva, Switzerland, on official duty.

Sources within the diplomatic and security circles intimated that as many as 20 individuals may not be allowed to enter some foreign countries. The individuals, mainly politicians and businessmen, are being accused of either playing a role in the post-election violence or frustrating the ongoing mediation talks. But before Kenyans could be told who the Cabinet minister denied a visa to Geneva was, Justice minister Martha Karua sprung a swift denial that she had been blocked from travelling to the Switzerland. Karua spoke during a well-attended news conference she called to dismiss the media reports. "If I was denied my country’s citizenship, I would be mourning but to be denied a visa for some far-flung country wouldn’t bother me," she added.

Karua said contrary to the reports, she had obtained a visa to travel to Geneva on Friday, February 29, and showed the media a copy of her passport containing the visa. "I declined to travel and instead asked my Permanent Secretary to make the statement on behalf of the country as is the usual practice in such circumstances," she added. The minister hit out at donor countries from the West for issuing threats and warnings of visa bans when the negotiations were still in progress.

Meanwhile, Vice-President Kalonzo Musyoka asked the international community to be part of the Kenyan peace process by shelving all the bans and threats. "In the wake of the peace deal and political settlement that we had, they should shelve these bans so as to consolidate the gains. They (victims of the bans) would love to participate in the implementation process and it will be not be a good gesture for them to be victimised.

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