In recent months, the French embassy in Nairobi has transformed into a daunting barrier for Kenyan travelers seeking to visit France for tourism, education, business, or conferences. What was once a bridge connecting nations now feels like a towering wall, dividing the two countries.
A mere year ago, travelers could secure French visas with relative ease, typically obtaining them a month before their intended travel date. However, the situation has dramatically deteriorated. It has become nearly impossible to book an appointment for visa interviews, with available slots stretching into the distant future. Kenyans find themselves placed on a disheartening waiting list, where the embassy wields the power to selectively call fortunate visa applicants. These candidates then endure a series of probing questions and humiliation, only to await the embassy’s arbitrary decision on whether a visa shall be issued.
One glaring instance of this disheartening practice unfolded recently when several Kenyan gynaecologists, invited to attend the 24th World Congress of FIGO (Federation International of Gynecology and Obstetrics) in Paris, faced immense obstacles at the hands of the French Embassy. Some were denied visa interview appointments outright. Among those who managed to secure interviews, many were handed denials based on flimsy excuses. The most outrageous among these was the embassy’s claim that it couldn’t discern a sufficient reason for the gynaecologists’ intended visit to France.
The event they were meant to attend is of utmost importance to Africa as a whole and is profoundly significant in the context of Kenyan achievement. Dr. Anne Kihara, a Kenyan, had been elected as the first Woman, African, and youngest individual to lead the organization for the upcoming two years.
It’s important to note that in 2021, the French government had urged its embassies in Algeria and Morocco to reduce the approval rate for visa applications by 50%, potentially indicating a broader policy shift.
The reasons behind the French Embassy in Nairobi’s uncompromising stance on Kenyan visa applications are not entirely clear, but several speculations emerge:
– A possible directive from Paris to curtail visas to Kenyan nationals, following a pattern set with Algeria and Morocco.
– Concerns regarding Kenyan President William Ruto’s open intent to increase the number of Kenyan immigrants working abroad, raising apprehensions about Kenyan nationals not returning to their home country.
– Unsubstantiated stereotypes propagated by some in the French society accusing Africans and Arabs of being indolent and exploiting social systems.
As the French Embassy in Nairobi’s stringent visa practices continue to cause dismay and frustration among Kenyan travelers, many are left hoping for a more equitable and respectful visa application process in the future.