A major diplomatic spat on Tuesday almost made President Uhuru Kenyatta cancel a much-publicised trip to Belgium, after the embassy in Nairobi denied his head of security a visa.
It took high-level interventions by officials from both countries to secure a visa for the head of Kenyatta’s Presidential Escort.
“Last minute interventions by Kenyan officials and their Belgian counterparts have reversed this unfortunate action, but its import, in the context of other negative actions by the EU directed at African delegations has been met with strong disapproval by Kenya,” said Karanja Kibicho, the Principal Secretary in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
President Kenyatta is due to attend the already controversy ridden EU-Africa Summit in Brussels, which is being skipped by Presidents Jacob Zuma of South Africa and Zimbabwe’s Robert Mugabe.
Mugabe declined to travel after Brussels reportedly denied his wife Grace, a visa. Zuma’s office on the other hand announced on Monday that he would not attend the crucial talks due to “other commitments”.
Pretoria would not say if Zuma’s decision was taken in solidarity with Mugabe, whose government called for a boycott of the meeting.
Kibicho said Kenya has summoned the Belgian ambassador in Nairobi Bart Ouvry “to receive a formal protest note.”
“It is unfortunate that this summit has been marked by several unfortunate actions by the EU to shape members of African delegations, even extending to a refusal to extend invitations to some serving African Heads of State.”
“Seen in this context, the refusal of a visa for a vital member of the Kenyan delegation, sent the wrong signal that the EU is in a position to dictate even the security arrangements of African Heads of State. These actions, in their totality, make for unfortunate precedents in the proper running of international relations,” Kibicho protested.
He said the Kenyan delegation would hold deliberations with the African Union Commission chairperson and other members of the African delegation on how future summits can avoid the negativity that has marked the Brussels meeting.
Kibicho said that despite the hiccups Kenya was looking forward to a constructive engagement on a range of issues with the European Union and its member countries.
Kenyatta’s spokesman Manoah Esipisu confirmed to Capital FM News that President Kenyatta was due to depart Nairobi on Tuesday night after the visa hitch was resolved.