Africa, Latest on coronavirus outbreak

Don't close borders over omicron, Kenyan leader urges wealthy nations

President touts his record during State of the Nation address on Tuesday before joint session of parliament

Andrew Wasike   | 30.11.2021
Don't close borders over omicron, Kenyan leader urges wealthy nations

NAIROBI, Kenya

Kenya’s president on Tuesday appealed to foreign countries not to close their borders to African countries over the emergence of the new omicron COVID-19 variant.

“Don’t lock the borders for us Africans, no one will be safe from COVID-19 until we are all safe. COVID-19 will not be defeated by lockdowns or by shutting off parts of the world that we think are problematic,” Uhuru Kenyatta said in his State of the Nation speech, addressing the world community.

Kenyatta said that while some battles have been won against COVID-19, “the war is not yet won, and we cannot rest on our laurels, (as) now more than ever, we are faced with yet another variant of the coronavirus – the omicron variant.”

“The variant may explain infection rate spikes that we are now witnessing across the globe,” he said, adding: “I urge all Kenyan adults to visit their nearest medical facility to receive their COVID-19 vaccination.”

Since the new variant was discovered last week in South Africa, some countries have banned or restricted flights from Southern African countries. Some leaders and healthcare officials say this effectively punished countries for honestly and responsibly reporting the variant.

The bans apply to such countries as South Africa, Botswana, Eswatini, Malawi, Mozambique, Namibia, Zimbabwe, and Lesotho.

State of the Nation address

Delivering his 2021 State of the Nation address to a joint session of the National Assembly and Senate in the capital Nairobi, Kenyatta said that despite the pandemic, which hit Kenya’s economy hard, the economy still grew by a slight margin.

Kenyatta said that under his leadership since 2013, Kenya is now the sixth-wealthiest nation in Africa, up from number 12.

Kenyatta, whose second and last term in office will expire next year, said that Kenya is the leading country in Africa in terms of household connections to electricity, second only to Egypt.

“We have connected 1.7 million more households than Egypt. Similarly, we have connected as many households as South Africa and Nigeria combined during the eight years of my administration,” Kenyatta said, adding that 73% of Kenya’s power is green energy coming from geothermal and solar energy.

Kenyatta also vowed that Kenya would not surrender even an inch of its territory to any nation. His declaration comes in the wake of a maritime dispute between Kenya and neighboring Somalia over a resource-rich area of 62,000 square miles (160,580 square kilometers) in the Indian Ocean.

The territory is believed to hold vast oil and gas deposits and is also one of East Africa’s richest fishing grounds.

“The government of Kenya will do everything possible to preserve the territory of this our great republic and ensure that generation after generation of Kenya dwell in it, as it is – intact and unencumbered,” he said. “Not an inch more: Not an inch less.”

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