Tuesday, August 21, 2012

MPs demand embassy relocation

By CAROLINE WAFULA cwafula@ke.nationmedia.com

MPs have mounted pressure on the Government to have the Israel Embassy located in Nairobi’s Upper Hill area relocated.

This follows complaints of inconveniences levelled to users of Bishops Road where the Embassy is located. A road block is mounted along the road where security checks are conducted round the clock, something that users of the road are uncomfortable about.

It is not the first time the matter has come before the House. This time, complaints were raised by nominated MP Musikari Kombo, a frequent user of the road whose office is located near the Embassy.

“The harassment and inconveniences are on a daily basis, why not put that embassy is another place like Gigiri,” he said.

He said many times cars are stuck in traffic as they queue to be screened by security personnel manning the road block.

“This is a congested place, I think the Government should think of moving the premises to another area,” he said.

He was not alone with this view. Mvita MP and former Minister Najib Balala too expressed displeasure about the security checks along the road.

“This is the only Embassy in that area and it can easily be relocated,” he argued.

He claimed Kenyans of a lighter complexion are especially ‘harassed’ by the security personnel at the road block.

“The minute you are my colour, you are arrested and interrogated. We appreciate the need to protect these Embassies but Upper Hill has become part of the new Central Business District and I emphasise that the Embassy should be moved,” he stated.

Juja MP William Kabogo criticized the security checks saying even MPs and top Government officials have been victim of the alleged harassment.

“The only smiling face there is the one they have put on those drums on the road, it reminds us of the Margaryans, of foreigners who come to this country and take over our security,” he claimed.

He claimed he has been held up at the road block for up to 30 minutes because the Israel ambassador was in office.

“If they are not satisfied with our security, they should be able to find a forest and put up an office where they can put all the security they want for 360 days round the clock,” he said.

The MPs were reacting to a statement by Foreign Affairs assistant minister Richard Onyonka which he issued in response to concerns raised by Mr Kombo.

The assistant minister said discussions are going on about where to move the Embassy since Kenya cannot donate land for free.

The cabinet has been holding discussions on creation of a diplomatic zone where Embassies can be relocated and the Minister pointed out the same to Parliament.

“We have been discussing to have them move to a place where they will fee secure and will be convenient to everyone,” he said.

He said the Kenya Government has tried to maintain a middle ground with Israel and tried to operate within the provisions of the Vienna Convention which guides conduct of foreign relations and how to handle property of foreign missions.

He said the security checks were mounted following increased attacks on Israel missions in foreign countries and that they were meant to pre-empt any such attacks.

“This is because usually terrorists use vehicles to blow up buildings and therefore the road block on Bishops road is not meant to be an inconvenience. It is only located there because the Kenya Government thought it would be important to provide security to the Embassy staff and officials in line with Article 2 of the Vienna Convention,” he stated.

“It is in the interests of all for Kenyans to cooperate,” he said.

Article 22 of the Vienna Convention states that the premises of the mission shall be inviolable and the agents of the receiving State may not enter them, except with the consent of the head of the mission.

It also states that the receiving State is under a special duty to take all appropriate steps to protect the premises of the mission against any intrusion or damage and to prevent any disturbance of the peace of the mission or impairment of its dignity.