EAST African Community (EAC) regional block have never reached a consensus on the issuance of the single tourist visa by Kenya, Uganda and Rwanda.
“There has never been any agreement on the arrangement at the EAC level, as a matter of fact, the member states are still discussing the issue,” Acting Director for Trade and Investment in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and East African Cooperation, Bernard Haule, said yesterday.
Mr Haule was responding to allegations by some media outlets and social networks, suggesting that Tanzania had snubbed the multi-entry visa for tourists outside the regional bloc.
The official maintained that introduction of the arrangement for all EAC member states was still under discussion through sectoral meetings on tourism and wildlife, noting that Tanzania was fully participating to the deliberations.
The ‘Daily News’ has separately learnt that even the three countries that have embraced the single visa are at loggerheads due to differences in national visa policies and regimes in Uganda, Kenya and Rwanda.
A senior tourism development officer from Uganda, Ms Anne Awori, was recently quoted at a forum in Kigali, Rwanda, complaining that some of the countries implementing the agreement were forcing tourists with the documents to pay extra upon entering their countries.
“We have come across many cases of officials asking tourists who have obtained the single entry visa from Uganda to pay entry fees in Rwanda or Kenya,” said Ms Awori, adding, “A recent case is when Rwanda charged a 13-yearold tourist an extra 60 US dollars despite having the regional visa from Uganda.”
Earlier, Uganda had blamed Kenya and Rwanda for breaching the visa agreement by issuing their own local visas to tourists instead of the single EAC tourist visa.
At one time, Ugandan tourism officials were quoted by the local media as threatening to pull out of the visa project. Heads of State from the three countries launched the single tourism visa in February 2014.
The idea was to allow tourists move freely within Uganda, Kenya and Rwanda without applying or paying for another visa. At a news conference in Dar es Salaam yesterday, Mr Haule explained that the idea came on way back in November, 2008, during an EAC Council of Ministers for tourism and wildlife, with a taskforce formed to look into the matter.
At a follow up meeting in 2010, the task force briefed the ministers on issues to consider, including harmonisation of visas for the EAC member states. “It was as well proposed that the visas be issued electronically, the taskforce further proposed a proper system for collection and sharing of revenues accrued from the visa fees,” Mr Haule explained.
The official stated further that after recommendations by the experts, the sectoral ministers in July 2013 agreed to form another working team to propose the best ways member countries could address the issues raised by the first team.
“Before the team got to work and suggest the way forward, the three countries decided to introduce the single visa on their own,” he remarked.
According to Mr Haule, the experts working on the issues were drawn from multiple areas including immigration departments, tourism, information and communication technology, security organisations, finance, legal affairs and ministries of foreign affairs.
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