- The governors have threatened to move to the courts to challenge the ministry decision if the travel and visa rules are not withdrawn immediately.
- According to the new regulations, travelling to the US exclusively on behalf of their County government do not qualify for official visa whether travelling on diplomatic passport or not.
- Munya, however, disputed this, saying any such actions adversely affect the functioning of county government including frustrating essential foreign travel would be unlawful.
- The new rules issued on February 14, stipulates that all county officials must, therefore, follow the normal visa application procedures including physical appearance to the embassy for interviews, fingerprints and payment of visa fee.
The Council of Governors (CoG) have slammed the strict rules by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs on the issuance of United States visas to governors saying it is discriminatory and unconstitutional.
The governors have threatened to move to the courts to challenge the ministry decision if the travel and visa rules are not withdrawn immediately.
In a statement to Newsrooms, Council of Governors Chairman Peter Munya said the directive by Ambassador E. M. Barine, Director, Parliament and County Affairs that county chiefs will only be issued with A visas to travel to the United States only when transacting national government duties, was in a bad taste and against the complementary spirit between the two levels of government.
“It is the Foreign Affairs ministry that issues diplomatic notes for foreign missions in Kenya for travel by state officers, hence it is discriminatory and unconstitutional for it to deny diplomatic notes to a section of constitutionally recognised state office holders,” Munya said in a letter addressed to the principal secretaries of the ministries of Foreign Affairs and Devolution says.
According to the new regulations, travelling to the US exclusively on behalf of their County government do not qualify for official visa whether travelling on diplomatic passport or not.
Munya, however, disputed this, saying any such actions adversely affect the functioning of county government including frustrating essential foreign travel would be unlawful.
For over two weeks, Mombasa Governor Ali Hassan Joho has been in the United States for a series of meetings of the Strong Cities Network.
Mombasa City was last year selected to join SCN-a network of cities across the world to combat violent extremism and promote cohesion.
But it is the frequent visits by the county chiefs to the US that seemed to have rubbed the government in the wrong way.
The Ministry of Foreign affairs said it would block the application for visas for foreign trips that are unnecessary.
It said that official visa status otherwise known as (A visa category) will only apply to officials travelling to the US on behalf of the National government and their immediate family members, who include spouse and unmarried sons and daughters.
READ MORE: Governors: Grilling by EACC a waste of time
But in a swift rejoinder, Mr Munya dismissed Barine’s letter and said the ministry was living in the past.
“To this end, CoG demands that you accord county government officials the facilitation and assistance they require when travelling for official functions in the US and other foreign countries. Note that non-cooperation on your part in fulfilling these legal obligations will attract a court challenge from CoG.” Munya stated.
The new rules issued on February 14, stipulates that all county officials must, therefore, follow the normal visa application procedures including physical appearance to the embassy for interviews, fingerprints and payment of visa fee.
But Munya who is also Meru Governor said Article 260 of the Constitution categorises governors, deputy governors, MCAs and CECs as state officers and therefore the national government should facilitate their travel outside the country.
“The Constitution provides that the governments at national and county levels are interdependent and should conduct their mutual relations on the basis of consultation and cooperation,” he said.
He added, “In this regard, national and county governments should work in mutual cooperation to ensure their powers and functions as outlined under the Fourth Schedule of the Constitution are fulfilled.”
If stringent rules by the ministry will be implemented, the county chiefs will be issued with visitor visas, which are category B1-B2.
Visitor visas are categorised by the ministry as non-immigrant visas for people who want to enter the United States temporarily for business (visa category B1), tourism, pleasure or visiting (visa category B2), or a combination of both purposes (B1-B2).
Further, it will mean that the county bosses will have to follow the normal visa application procedures, which includes a physical appearance at the embassy for payment of visa fees, interviews, and fingerprints.
The governor’s setback comes barely two months after Devolution and Planning Principal Secretary Mwanamaka Mabruki issued another directive but opposed by the chairman of Council of Governors Peter Munya, the Government said it would block the application for visas for foreign trips that are unnecessary.
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