Minister barred from travelling to UK
By Ben Agina

The British Government has issued a blanket order blocking Transport Minister Chris Murungaru from stepping on its soil.

An alert circulated to airlines yesterday by the British High Commission in Nairobi advised them not to ferry the minister — even on transit arrangement — to Britain because his visa has been revoked.

The two-paragraph alert, bearing the names of the minister and details of his birth — August 19, 1954 — was, however, silent on why the drastic action was taken against him.

Murungaru becomes the first Kenyan serving minister in the Kibaki and Moi administration to suffer the slap of a travel ban by a European state.

The ban came only weeks after Murungaru arrived from the UK where, according his personal assistant Mr Douglas Kaunda, he was undergoing treatment for injuries he suffered after falling in the bathroom.

The historic warning headlined "Airline Alert" issued by Mr Clive Wools and dated yesterday read: "Please note that the current United Kingdom visa in the passport of the above named gentleman has been revoked. He is therefore not, repeat not, acceptable for travel to or through the United Kingdom and should not be carried there."

It concluded: "This gentleman should be referred to the British High Commission if he disputes the fact that his visa has been revoked".

The ban is bound to bring President Kibaki’s Government, already grappling with aid freeze and anti-corruption credibility problems, under greater scrutiny from the donors.

The situation is compounded by the fact that no reason has been given by the British Government.

However, the British Embassy is on record as saying it would withdraw visas of government officials it suspects to be operating within the orbit of corruption.

Yesterday an official at the High Commission confirmed his office had circulated the alert.

The diplomat would, however, not go into details of what triggered the punitive action against the minister, who served as Kibaki’s campaign committee fundraising chairman. The alert means the airline that ferries the minister to the UK will meet the cost of returning him, as he won’t go beyond the airport.

Traditionally the other members of the 25 European Union member states would replicate a travel ban by the UK because of shared immigration protocol.

Britain’s Heathrow Airport is the transit point for most African Airlines flying to the United States, Europe, Canada and Australia.

Murungaru was this year moved from the powerful ministry of National Security, one of the most heavily capitalised ministries of Government, to the less-profiled but well-endowed Ministry of Transport.

His current portfolio grants him control over airports, ports, the meteorological department and commuter transport.

The ban bars the minister from even transacting any business in the UK on behalf of the Government of Kenya. The UK is a key member of the consortium funding Kenya’s development sector in areas such as education, health, transport and roads.

Kibaki’s Government underwent a credibility shock when the Presidential advisor on anti-corruption war John Githongo resigned, saying he was no longer confident he was getting appropriate support from his superiors.

Former British High Commissioner Sir Edward Clay is on record describing the Office of the President as the biggest merchant of corruption. He spoke at a time when Murungaru was the minister in charge of National Security in the OP.

At the height of Sh7 billion Anglo Leasing twin scandals, passport and forensic laboratory, and the furious debate set off by Clay’s dispatch to President Kibaki of the 20 "dodgy" files on suspect tenders, the High Commission unmasked a plan to revoke the visas of government officials linked to mega-corruption.

The UK is an essential destination for Government officers and travel restrictions could hamper official and private interests.