By DAVID MUGONYI
Kenya has once again denied exiled Tibet spiritual leader Dalai Lama entry into the country.
His Holiness Dalai Lama was expected in the country tomorrow on a week-long private visit.
However, his effort to obtain a visa from Kenya’s New Delhi embassy has hit a dead end.
Despite the spiritual leader being promised by Vice President Moody Awori himself that he would be issued with necessary travel documents, his handlers have not obtained the same. So the exiled political and spiritual leader of the Tibetan people will not be visiting Kenya for the second time.
On both occasions, he has expressed interest to visit the world famous Maasai Mara.
Dalai Lama was blocked from visiting the country in 1999, when former President Moi declared that he could not allow him since Kenya had very cordial relations with China and could not allow it to be soured by such a visit.
When Mr Moi was denying the spiritual leader a chance to visit the country and go on a safari, the then Leader of Official Opposition Mwai Kibaki was accusing the Government of allowing its foreign policy to be at the mercy of donors.
Mr Kibaki said Kenya had lost her sovereignty to international financial institutions.
But Mr Moi dismissed the Democratic Party leader saying he expected a person of his calibre to be knowledgeable on matters of global economic affairs.
After Dalai Lama expressed interest to visit the country the Vice President’s office wrote to the South African representative of Mr Lama acknowledging receipt of the letter requesting for a private visit.
The letter said in part: “I shall alert our principal immigration officer to instruct our New Delhi representative to issue visa to the Dalai Lama and his entourage.”
However, due to what they called a heavy schedule, the Dalai Lama was not able to travel as scheduled. And his representative wrote to the Government to change the travel dates to July 25, 2004.
“If it is no inconvenience, His Holiness would like to visit your beautiful country and see some of the famous and beautiful wildlife.”
The letter indicated that the Dalai Lama would be travelling in an entourage of eight including his personal assistant, a secretary, a translator and a security officer.
Eight months later and with no answer from the Vice President’s office, the Dalai Lama’s representative wrote in June last year making a similar request for a visit, with the new dates being January 22 to 29 2007.
In response on August 1, Mr Awori said: “I have consulted and have information that provided his holiness comes as a private citizen then there will be no problem. He may attend any function that you require him to and he may certainly enjoy the tourist attractions of our country. The government will not be involved in his visit other than to ensure security.”
In October, Mr Awori was briefed on the arrangements made for the Dalai Lama’s visit and a programme was enclosed for his comment and suggestions.
He was also to give a talk. Mr Awori was also requested to assist so that the spiritual and political leader could use the VIP lounge at the Jomo Kenyatta International Airport on arrival from Mumbai and during his departure. The Kenya Airports Authority managing director George Muhoho wrote to the VP on October 21, confirming that he had made the arrangements.
Mr Awori was provided with a full list of people in entourage, their status and identities on November 23. A final programme of events which included a visit to the Nairobi animal orphanage, a tree planting ceremony with the youth, a visit to Daphne Sheldrick Elephant sanctuary, the Giraffe Centre, Langata women’s prison and Nyumbani Children’s Home was sent a day later. And three days later Mr Awori asked the organisers to present their requests to the relevant ministries – Tourism, Youth and Environment.
However, by January 5, the Kenyan embassy in New Delhi had not issued the visas which prompted the organisers of the trip in South Africa and India to seek the VP’s intervention.
The VP promised to consult the principal immigration officer but he never responded to the organisers because he has been out of the country.
The Dalai Lama who was expected in the country on Monday aboard a Kenya Airways flight, has now cancelled the visit and will instead use the days he was due to be in Kenya addressing a meeting of 10,000 Buddhist monks in India.