Sunday, December 23, 2007
Mwiraria, Biwott UK Visa Ban: Yet Another Terrible Embarrassment for Kenya
When the Standard published an exclusive report on 21st December 2007 that Cabinet Minister David Mwiraria and the immediate former Keiyo South MP, Mr Nicholas Biwott, had been expressly barred from traveling to the United Kingdom after their visas were rescinded, the matter was quickly swept out of the limelight by presidential opinion polls that have been raining on Kenyans. Even the Sunday newspapers that purport to carry extensive news and political analysis have failed to publish on this scandalous event. If the truth be told, the news could not have come at a worse time for President Kibaki's PNU coalition.
Considering that both Mwiraria and Biwott travel on Kenyan diplomatic passports (see the 'D' preceding their passport number below), the visa ban is a most embarrassing drawback for Kenya as a country and also for President Kibaki who is trailing his main challenger in the opinion polls with less than a week to the general elections. You can be sure, ODM is working on this and clip will be aired on TV prime time as "advertisers announcement" before the polls.
According to the Standard report, a RED ALERT travel advisory has been circulated to five international airlines that depart from the JKI Airport Nairobi with the names of four prominent individuals including the Charterhouse Bank MD, Mr Sanjay Kumar Ramniklal and that of his brother Manoj Ramniklal Panacha Shah of Kingsway Tyres. The two brother used to run Charterhouse bank (currently under CBK management and under receivership) that was last year implicated in massive tax-evasion that has yet to find any successful conviction in courts.
Airline sources in JKIA confirmed that they received an ‘Immigration Alert’ from the British High Commission in Nairobi informing them of the cancellation of UK visas for the four individuals. In a letter headed "Alert" to the airlines, the Commission stated: "The above named were issued with UK visas. However, these visas have now been cancelled and are no longer valid for travel to the United Kingdom. "I would be grateful if an alert be placed on your systems and the relevant staff be notified. Please contact the Visa Section at the British High Commission immediately on the above numbers if a date of proposed travel to the UK is known, or if they are encountered at the airport". The letter contained the full names of the four individuals and their passport numbers; Biwott (D007***), Manoj (B093***), Mwiraria (D008***) and Sanjay (B068***)
Meanwhile British diplomatic sources in Nairobi stressed that the decision had ‘nothing to do with Kenyan domestic politics’ and had come after ‘extensive legal and ministerial consultations’ in Whitehall. "Early this year we decided to make full use of our immigration rules to deny individuals entry to the U.K. in full support of efforts to combat corruption here," High Commission Spokeswoman Charlie Williams told the Standard.
Mwiraria, Kenya's Environment Minister, resigned (read sacked) from the cabinet early 2006 after he was linked to the unresolved Anglo-Leasing scam, but was re-appointed mid-2007. Anglo Leasing involved the payment of more than $250 million in government funds to non-existent firms for high-tech 'terrorist proof ' passports and police forensics labs which forced the resignation of three cabinet ministers and drawing criticism from donors concerned Kibaki's administration was failing in its declared war on graft. This scandal forced the resignations (read sackings) of Messrs. David Mwiraria, Chris Murungaru and Kiraitu Murungi after Githongo, through BBC, aired tape recordings that implicated Mwiraria and Murungi. Despite opposition from donors and opposition politicians, the latter two have since been reinstated. The Vice President - Moody Awori - although a signatory to one of the contracts, escaped 'resigning' by the skin of his teeth because the civil society and opposition MPs could not master enough pressure to force his sacking.
Nicholas Biwott, a powerful minister in the previous KANU government of President Daniel Arap Moi, was the prime suspect in the 1990 unresolved murder of foreign minister, Robert Ouko. Biwott was also tied to some corruption cases in the 1990s including the multi million and also unresolved Goldenberg scam.
Kenya is a former British colony and the two countries maintain strong historical, diplomatic and bilateral partnership. Another of Kibaki's inner circle, former Internal Security minister Chris Ndarathi Murungaru also had his British and USA visas revoked in 2005 and has filed a suit in a London court to challenge the revocations.