At least five Members of Parliament were recently denied United States Visas when they sought to travel as part of Kenyan delegation that was to attend the National Conference of State Legislatures (NCSL) in Nashville, Tennessee.
According to reports by The Standard, the legislators who include members from the National Assembly and the Senate were barred over suspected drug and terrorism links.
Others who failed to meet tough regulations set by the US, hence, denied travel visas are five parliamentary staff from the clerks’ office and from the Parliamentary Service Commission (PSC).
The US is known for its tough policies on the issuance of travel visas especially when authorities have sufficient information in regards to individual’s involvement in drug trafficking, linked to extremist groups or are beneficiaries of the proceeds of crime.
Reports now indicate that more MPs could have been barred from joining the Kenyan delegation to the US that was led by National Assembly Speaker Justin Muturi and his Senate counterpart Keneth Lusaka.
Sources familiar with the matter told the local daily that it took high-intervention for some legislator to be cleared to travel.
“Some applications were rejected. We contacted the consular services to lodge a complaint. Some were reviewed while others are still undergoing review,” the source intimated.
One of the legislators from the coast region who were denied travel documents told senior parliamentary staff that the US authorities had linked him to extremist activities of outlawed groups terrorising locals, the daily reports.
According to the US embassy in Nairobi, an applicant’s current and/or past actions, such as drug or criminal activities, may render ineligible for a visa but one can seek a review when visa application is denied.
Following the revelations, National Assembly clerk Michael Sialai stated that he was not aware of any MP or staff who was denied.
Sialai also pointed out that visa application is a personal matter and it is, therefore, difficult to know the grounds of denial.
Kenya sent the highest number of delegation to the legislative assembly. In total over 80 MPs and staff were on the delegation list.
Many other countries sent between one and six delegates. They include Indonesia (one), Portugal (two) and Japan (six).
Last week, Orange Democratic Movement leader Raila Odinga, criticised the huge expenditure as a “scandalous waste of revenue” by Parliament and the county assemblies.
Through his spokesman, Dennis Onyango, the opposition chief said he “finds no justification at all in Parliament and county assemblies sending such a huge delegation on a mission where a handful could come back with a report”.