LETTERS: Remove curbs that hamper travel in East Africa

LETTERS: Remove curbs that hamper travel in East Africa

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In justifying his directive that Africans wishing to visit Kenya will be eligible to receive a visa at the port of entry and that the issuance shall not be done on the basis of reciprocity, the President during his inauguration stated that we will be more integrated as a continent and appreciative of our diversity. In addition the political balkanisation that risks our mutual security, the negative politics of identity, will recede when we are free to travel and live with one another.

And to promote the East African Community (EAC) Common Market protocol the President further announced that all East African Community nationals are free to work, do business, own property, farm and if one wishes they can find a willing partner, marry and settle in Kenya and all that is required is their national IDs and for them to observe the stipulated laws.

The plan by the National Transport and Safety Authority (NTSA) to crack the whip on foreign plated motor vehicle users come January, 2018 will undermine the President’s intention and that of EAC community of promoting brotherhood among Africans if the authority will not tread carefully in observing the stipulated laws and the President’s directives.

There are challenges being faced by returning residents especially those with vehicles that have non-diplomatic plates in getting Kenyan plates for their vehicles this is contrary to the President’s directive that EAC nationals are free to own property and their use of such property should be without fear but as per our governing laws. The protocol on the establishment of the East African Community (EAC) Common Market came into force on July 1, 2010, following ratification by all the five Partner States: Burundi, Kenya, Rwanda, Tanzania and Uganda.

The protocol provides for “Four Freedoms”, namely the free movement of goods; labour; services; and capital, which will significantly boost trade and investments and make the region more productive and prosperous.

With the coming to force of the East African Common Market Protocol where there is freedom to work in any of the partner states, the EAC citizenry have had opportunities to work and live in other Partner States other than their countries of origin however on returning back to their countries, the former Kenyan expatriates have found it difficult to get Kenyan number plates for the vehicles they acquired while working in other EAC partner states.

The East African Customs Management Act fifth schedule (s114) provides for categories for exemption. In particular, article 5 sub-article 3 part c provides for exemption of: (c) one motor vehicle, “(excluding buses and minibuses of seating capacity of more than 13 passengers and load carrying vehicles of load carrying capacity exceeding two tonnes)” which the passenger has personally owned and used outside a partner state for at least 12 months (excluding the period of the voyage in the case of shipment) Provided that the person has attained the age of 18 years.

While the above law exists to be implemented, The Kenya Bureau of Standard is clear that any motor vehicle being imported into Kenya should meet the Kenya standard code of practice for inspection of road vehicles (KS 1515:2000 – code) which specifies that the imported used motor vehicle should not be over eight years old.

This requirement may be based on the assumption that the older the car the unroadworthy it is, which may not necessarily be the fact! In other recent news, the government has banned the importation of second hand vehicles older than seven years. In a notice published in a section of the media, the Kenya Bureau of Standards says all importers of used second hand motor vehicles including returning residents, diplomatic staff and the general public will not be allowed to bring in such cars with effect from 1st January 2018.

The above contrast is a clear indication of inconsistency in our legislation that comes with a prize as the returning residents have no option but to pay an equivalent of $50 every three months to acquire the C32 Permit. Coupled with the new development at KRA and NTSA, come January 2018, the vehicle owners will be relieved of their foreign plated vehicles, vehicles bought with hard earned money, vehicles that remind them of the days that they gave service beyond the borders.

In other countries like neighbouring Uganda, the returning residents have a smooth ride in getting their foreign plated cars registered in Uganda. All one needs is proof that the individual held valid work permits while working in other EAC partner states and that they are back to the country having completed their contract in the foreign land.

In fact the once foreign plated cars can easily be identified as their number plates are coloured differently. Its evidently clear that there is political will by the President through his various directives. However, there are inconsistencies in our legislations. NTSA and KRA should seek for full harmonisation of our Kenyan laws and that of EAC before carrying out their crackdown next month.

Geoffrey Atika Makori, certified public accountant

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