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Welcome visitors, but protect our interests too

By The Standard | November 16th 2013

The Standard

It could not have gone unnoticed. Its ramifications would be far and wide. But above all, this could be just a tip of the iceberg.

We are referring to the drastic, bold and welcome decision by the State to revoke citizenship of 104 foreigners.

The argument Government put forth is that these foreigners obtained vital documents through fraud and false means.

In essence it implies they greased the palms of some Immigration officers to operate freely in Kenya.

Foreigners are free to apply and get Kenyan citizenship just as we expect the same favour say in European and Asiatic States, as well as America.

But the issue here is not that we are being racist; the targets of extraditions are foreigners who did not follow right channels to obtain citizenship papers.

Some lie about their professional credentials and experience to be given work permits, ostensibly because they have come to do what locals cannot do.

Others lie about this and that business or service they are out to set up in Kenya, with the additional untruth that they have the money, network and means of helping build the Kenyan economy and help create jobs.

That usually is the bait, sweetened with distortions and exaggerations about how they have local partnership and international web of support.

Of course the reason the government has acted is itself suspect. We still need more serious audit of our issuance of citizenship certificates and work permits.

What we were seeing is the usual government’s kneejerk reaction to serious threats to national security.

In this particular case, it was a follow-up to the Westgate Mall tragedy in September.

Apart from Intelligence failure and the drawn-out but erratic rescue mission, questions were raised about how the attackers could have entered Kenya with their deadly heavy weaponry unnoticed.

This particular attack, which was deadlier in terms of brutality and scale, rekindled memories of the 1998 assault on the US embassy in Nairobi, and two years later Kikambala Hotel, at the Coast.

Just like the recent spate of grenade and bomb attacks in parts of Nairobi, Mombasa and Northern Kenya, all linked to Somali’s Al-Shabaab terror cell, the common denominator remains the infiltration of the country and perpetuation of terror by foreigners.

After the Westgate Mall terror attack, one more thing happened in government as the row between the police and Kenya Defence Forces on who exactly bungled the rescue operation.

This was the sacking of key Immigration staff linked to corrupt issuance of these vital papers to foreigners. The affected staff have, however, gone to court challenging their dismissal.

The point we must make is that, yes it is good to clampdown on those behind this perennial problem, but the process must not be piecemeal, or just meant to assuage the fears of Kenyans. It must be a sustained process.

It must also target those who are in the country without requisite papers, most of them being ‘economic’ refugees, coming to Kenya to do such simple jobs as hawking and cleaning!

Others could be sex tourists or just criminals on the run. But whoever they are, you will find that they pose a social, economic, health and/or security risk to our nation.

To contain this situation, we must extend the cleanup to public servants and police officers, who man border control points, as well as members of the Provincial Administration such as County and Locational chiefs, who often connive to allow foreigners unfettered access to Kenya.

Yes, we must make foreigners as comfortable as possible in Kenya as a strategy to attract foreign investment and expertise, and so that their countries can reciprocate when Kenyans turn up at their doorstep seeking visiting visas, citizenship papers, and even work permits.

We are after all a member of the global family of nations.

But what we can not do is allow this to happen at the expense of Kenyans either in terms of diminishing job opportunities and compromised security.

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