Kenya, UK eye peace after travel ban fight

Thursday April 08 2021
Uhuru Kenyatta and Boris Johnson.

Kenya's President Uhuru Kenyatta meets with UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson. FILE PHOTO | NMG


Kenya and the United Kingdom are set for reconciliatory talks after a spat over Covid-19 risk levels triggered a tit-for-tat travel blockade from each of them.

The two countries Wednesday announced that a joint committee would be formed to review the travel restrictions which threatened bilateral trade, economic and security relations.

The announcement followed a telephone discussion between Kenya’s Foreign Affairs Cabinet Secretary Raychelle Omamo and her UK counterpart, Dominic Raab.

“They discussed the strength of our relationship -- on trade, regional security, and health -- and agreed to establish a Joint Committee to work together on addressing Covid-19 travel restrictions,” Kenya’s Foreign ministry said in statement.

Passengers travelling between the two countries face a blockade starting this Friday after the Kenyan government banned all flights from the UK to retaliate a move by London to add the country on its travel “red list”.

Travellers arriving in the UK from countries on the red list will be denied entry, while returning Britons must submit to 10 days of mandatory quarantine in hotels. The UK claimed it based its decision on scientific evidence which showed that Kenya had strains of the deadlier South African variant of coronavirus – an assertion Nairobi has rejected.


Kenya has, besides the passenger flight ban, also directed all non-citizens coming from the UK to self-isolate for 14 days before they can be admitted to the country in what will significantly cut on the number of tourists coming to Kenya ahead of the summer holidays.

Those arriving from the UK are to also undergo mandatory two Covid-19 tests, one on the second day of quarantine and another on the eighth day.

In an attempt to avoid escalation of the feud, both countries have agreed to get to a negotiating table amid concerns that the standoff may affect critical security and trade ties.

The travel blockades have raised concerns over negative effects on trade and tourism between the two countries and bilateral ties such as military cooperation.

Kenya is currently engaged in talks for a critical new bilateral trade deal with the UK post-Brexit, hoping to cushion its economy after partner states of the East African Community (EAC) failed to conclude an Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA) with the EU. Only Kenya signed and ratified the deal.

Until the end of the Brexit transition period, Kenya enjoyed duty-free, quota-free access to the UK’s markets through the EU’s Market Access Regulation (MAR). As the UK did not replicate the MAR at the end of the transition period, Kenya would have faced an increase in tariffs without a trade agreement or other measures in place.