Kenya’s Justin Muturi’s impending ban on foreign travels for lawmakers is just one of several similar policies

Recently, the Speaker of Kenya’s National Assembly, Justin Muturi announced to the lawmakers, the implementation of a ban on all foreign travels to ensure that they take care of businesses back home. “We will now have an administrative ban on these trips. People must work. They will not be allowed to leave the country without tabling a report of their work here,” Mr Muturi said.

Muturi’s reaction is not strange in this part of the world, both in regards to the allegation of lawmakers neglecting their responsibilities to embark on foreign trips, and implementing a policy to tackle the issue. In 2012, when former President Goodluck Jonathan jetted out of the country amidst crisis in northern Nigeria to attend a summit in Brazil, Nigerians were enraged. They couldn’t understand why a trip to the United Nations’ Earth Summit, was more important than dealing with urgent issues in the country, especially in the wake of a violent crisis in Kaduna and Yobe State, that left many dead.

With regards to policies aimed at curbing the excesses of African leaders, South Africa, Zambia, Somalia, and Zimbabwe have towed a similar line. Late last year, Mr Nathi Mthethwa, South Africa’s minister of Arts and Culture slashed the budget for international travels made by officials as a cost-cutting measure. “When I assumed responsibility I noticed that too much time and resources were spent on domestic and international travel that comprised of big delegations,” he stated in a letter to the National Assembly.

In December 2014, Dr Ahmed Ali Dahir, Somalia’s Attorney General issued a travel ban against ministers over alleged case of corruption. 25 Somalian ministers were banned from traveling to foreign countries, with orders to the police, the immigration authorities, and the National Intelligence Unit to monitor the movement of these cabinet members.

“After having received reports of missing public money and other properties, as well as misuse of power, we have directed the 25 cabinet members, the deputy ministers and the state ministers not to leave the country …”

In June, Zimbabwe’s Member of Parliament called for a reduction in travel expenses for government officials to prioritise the welfare of ambassadors and embassy staff in foreign countries who have not been paid salaries for months. “You cannot have all your 100-plus directors travelling business class, if you look at your air travel expenses given the number of delegations you take to (foreign) summits, it is unsustainable,” said Pricilla Misihairabwi-Mushonga.

President Robert Mugabe has also come under fire for his excessive travelling within and outside Africa. “Robert Mugabe has flown more hours than the average commercial airline pilot in the world. We strongly condemn the reckless and selfish wastage of limited state funds on these useless foreign jamborees,” said Obert Gutu, spokesperson of MDC-T. A spokesperson of another opposition party, Zapu, said, “We are looking at a leader who has become a tourist in his country …”

In Zambia, citizens have previously called for a policy that restricts government officials from getting medical treatment abroad, saying that it is unreasonable for government officials to spend huge sums of money getting treated in foreign hospitals while Zambian hospitals lack adequate medicines, facilities, and medical professionals.

Aside from Muturi’s impending ban on foreign travels, he is also considering limiting the number of retreats a House Committee can hold outside the capital city of Nairobi, “I also hear that committees are finding it difficult to adopt reports in Nairobi, that it becomes easier to adopt reports when they go to the Coast,” Muturi said.

As long as it remains common practice for African leaders to adopt extravagant lifestyles upon attaining a position of power, countries will continually form and enforce distinct policies aimed to keep these leader in check.

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