President Ruto: Kenya-Eritrea visa requirements abolished

Eritrean President Isaias Afwerki (L) and his host, Kenyan President William Ruto, at State House, Nairobi on February 9, 2023. [Courtesy of State House, Kenya]

President William Ruto said on Thursday, February 9 that Kenya and Eritrea have agreed to abolish visa requirements for the two nations.

At the same time, Dr. Ruto said Kenya will, with immediate effect, open an Embassy in Eritrea's capital Asmara.

"Given the commitment of my administration to deepen and strengthen relations between Kenya and Eritrea, I wish to confirm today that Kenya will open a diplomatic mission in Asmara, and I have subsequently instructed the Ministry of Foreign Affairs to commence the process of operationalising the directive," said Ruto, when he hosted Eritrean President Isaias Afwerki at State House, Nairobi.

Afwerki, who is on a two-day State Visit, arrived in Nairobi, Kenya on Wednesday, February 8.

Top of the agenda of his meeting with President Ruto were bilateral engagements on several areas of co-operation between the two nations.

President Afwerki last visited Kenya on official duty on December 15, 2018 during President Uhuru Kenyatta's reign.

President Ruto said Thursday that in efforts to encourage free flow of trade between Kenya and Eritrea, both nations had agreed to abolish visa requirements for travellers.

"It is contradictory for us to continue erecting borders with visas and at the same time try regional integration and regional trade," said Ruto, adding: "Our decision to abolish visa requirements is a welcome momentum for us to build a continent that moves, trades and does its business without hurdles."

President Afwerki echoed Ruto's remarks, saying the lifting of visa requirements marked a "serious milestone" for the citizens of the two countries.

"We are not reinventing anything, this is an obligation for the people in the region and we have to assume responsibility and revitalise the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD)," he said.

In December 2022, President Ruto visited Eritrea, where he was hosted by President Afwerki.

The originally sour relations between the two countries have improved over the years.

Kenya had, in 2011, accused Eritrea of providing arms to Al-Shabaab militants. Despite denials, Eritrea was later sanctioned by the UN Security Council. The sanctions were lifted in 2019.