As we come to terms with the realities of the Ebola epidemic, one thing that amazes me is the advantage that some African immigration officers take of such situations. Last week, while on a journey to Tanzania, I witnessed interesting scenes at the Kenya/Arusha Tanzania border. The medical officers stationed at Namanga border treated us with disdain, sorry. Contrary to the tolerance and humility known of Tanzanians, the Immigration officers, fell short of the ethos. They screened us and demanded that those who did not have Yellow Fever certificate pay for it. Individuals who did not have the Yellow Fever Certs had to be vaccinated before they would be allowed to proceed to their destinations albeit standard charges or receipts issued.
This was not wrong as long as the screening process amplified effort to check the spread of the disease across the borders. What was baffling was a group of unscrupulous middlemen stationed at the border offices who seemed to be well known agents working as ‘pseudo’ Tanzania Revenue Authorities. The ‘pseudo’ officers were ready to provide free medical certificates at subsidized costs. Where they got them, no one knows. If that is the norm at the border, no one knows.
Some of the global pilgrims claimed that they did not like the manner in which the medics at the border harassed them for none receipted cash. While many were overheard acceding to vaccination calls, the speed at which they were harassed by their chauffer’s to cross the border and leave the receipts to collect later pointed to mischief.
I am not against the Ebola measures adopted by the African authorities to check the spread of the disease. The actions are good and point to effective precaution. Officers manning or screening people at the borders must not compromise the health safety for “tokens of appreciation.’ Who knows who is safe and how?
In the common interest of all, the African states ought to clarify whether tourists need to pay for the Ebola screening or if it’s free. By so doing, they will spare the countries the epithets of shame being displayed by some wayward immigration officers. That aside, thumbs up for the US and Canada for making an effort to help fight the deadly outbreak. The action by the Governments is a clear manifestation of a world connected by collective dispersion. What happens in Africa has knock on effects around the globe. This is the way to go.
In retrospect, the West should not treat Africans with disdain, too. It is not only Africa where such disease occurs. It defies logic that when an outbreak is discovered, then the West blows it out of shape. States must rise above egocentric interests by using natural calamities as a bait to control or rule over the peripheral states. Even if we still lack the technical, and managerial expertise, we must be treated with respect. Managing the disease requires collective effort.
By Kepher Otieno