Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta said yesterday that citizens of other East African Community (EAC) member states would no longer be regarded as foreigners in Kenya.
The decision, which is aimed at promoting cooperation among East Africans, means that Tanzanians, Ugandans, Rwandans, Burundians and South Sudanese visiting Kenya will not be required to have work or residence permits with effect from yesterday.
Mr Kenyatta made the announcement after he was sworn in for his second and final five-year term as Kenya’s president.
“As a mark of our continued commitment to you, our brothers and sisters in the East African Community; from today, you will be treated like Kenyans. Like your Kenyan brothers and sisters, you will need only your identity card. You can now work, do business; own property, farm and if you wish, and find a willing partner, you can marry and settle in Kenya,” he said.
Mr Kenyatta said he was making the commitment with no conditions for reciprocity.
“It is driven by our desire for deeper regional integration. As l welcome you l remind you that equally you shall be subject to the same rules and laws as your Kenyan brothers and sisters,” he said, adding that he would work with his fellow leaders within the EAC to bring a renewed energy and optimism to the union.
“You are our closest friends; our fate and yours are joined at the hip; our troubles and triumphs are yours, and yours are ours….. Together, we can deliver the peace and prosperity for which our citizens are crying out; divided, we will struggle to realise the full potential of our people.”
Meanwhile, President Kenyatta’s pledge to heal political divisions in Kenya was overshadowed by bloody protests and a promise by his rival to stage his own swearing-in.
The pomp of his inauguration ceremony contrasted with clouds of teargas fired at opposition leader Raila Odinga and his supporters as they attempted to hold a rally elsewhere in Nairobi. At least two people were shot dead in clashes with police.
Throwing down the gauntlet, Mr Odinga rejected Mr Kenyatta’s inauguration and vowed to hold his own swearing-in on December 12, the day the country marks its independence from Britain. Mr Odinga’s supporters engaged in running battles with police all morning as they attempted to gather for a “memorial rally” to honour nearly 60 people killed, mostly by police, in over four months of political upheaval.
A senior police officer who earlier reported one fatality said: “We are aware there is another person dead and it has been said that he was also shot dead.”
Another police officer said six people had been injured by gunfire.
Mr Odinga spoke to a crowd of hundreds from atop his car briefly before police lobbed tear gas at the convoy, forcing them to disperse.
Meanwhile at the 60,000-seat Kasarani stadium, military parades, a 21-gun salute, traditional dancing and drumming accompanied Mr Kenyatta’s vows to heal the wounded nation. “I will devote my time and energy to build bridges, to unite and bring prosperity,” he said as he started his second term faced with a large portion of the population that rejects his election outright.
President Kenyatta urged the nation to focus on building the economy rather than dwell on divisive politics.
“No one eats politics. For the last 50 years, we have watched as the Asian economies have risen to wealth, while much of Africa has stagnated. The difference is that they used politics to create vibrant economies for their people,” he said.
“In our case, we have pursued politics as an end in itself, rather than as a means to economic prosperity. This must end.”
Mr Kenyatta and his deputy William Ruto took the oaths of office before several African heads of state, including from South Sudan, Uganda, Rwanda, Zambia, Somalia, Gabon, Botswana and Ethiopia.
Prime ministers, foreign ministers and special envoys represented other African nations, as well as Qatar, Serbia, Ukraine and the United Arab Emirates.
Additional reporting by AFP
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, while placed on top of the Kenyan government’s guest list, did not attend the ceremony, but had a number of meetings with African leaders scheduled during his visit.
Additional report by AFP