Monday, February 09, 2015

Tourism and Natural Resources Minister Lazaro Nyalandu yesterday condemned Kenya’s decision to bar Tanzanian registered tour vans from accessing the Jomo Kenyatta International Airport (JKIA).

Tourism and Natural Resources Minister Lazaro Nyalandu.

Mr Nyalandu said the ban was in bad taste and did not augur well for business and diplomatic relations between the two countries. “For Kenya to enforce the ban that was earlier lifted because Tanzania has asked for more time (for talks) is an act that lacks wisdom and sense diplomacy,” he said on his twitter handle last evening.

It was the first time that the minister openly commented on the growing rift following last Friday’s decision to lock out Tanzanian vans from the JKIA in Nairobi where they pick and drop tourists. The ban was announced by Kenyan minister for East Africa Co-operation and Tourism Phyllis Kandie who blamed Tanzania for failing to convene talks on the matter as earlier planned.

Her move has sparked off an uproar on social media which forced her to also take into the same platform to explain her decision. Ms Kandie said the ban was temporary and meant to allow for talks between the two countries on the way forward. “The government gives priority to Kenyans; we have enforced the 1985 bilateral agreement. Talks are on to have a solution, KE & TZ are on the same team,” she twitted.

For his part, Mr Nyalandu says he held talks with Ms Kandie on January 16, after which the ban was lifted the following day. He notes that the agreement was that ministerial experts from Kenya and Tanzania meet within three weeks to iron out any differences.

Mr Nyalandu said Tanzania, however, asked for more time following a request from the ministries of EA Community and that of Transport.

Mr Samuel Sitta who had been in charge of the EAC docket was recently moved to the Transport docket in a Cabinet reshuffle. He swapped places with Dr HarrisonMwakyembe. Mr Sitta last week, while referring to the standoff, said Tanzania should approach the negotiations with caution.

Kigoma North MP Zitto Kabwe was among those who led in the attack on Ms Kandie, asking her to withdraw the ban because it was against the spirit of EAC integration.

“I plead that Kenyan government lift the ban or direct it to parks only in the spirit of EAC,” tweeted Mr Kabwe. The opposition MP said reasons given for the ban were misleading as the airport was not among the areas designated for restriction in the 1985 agreement. Ms Kandie, however, said the agreement covered both national parks, game reserves and airports.

in Arusha, players in the tourism and business sectors said the ban was a wake-up call to make its tourism sector more competitive, including having a working national airline.

The measures should include expanding and modernising the Kilimanjaro International Airport (Kia) and other airports so that they can attract more airlines and direct flights from abroad, according to Mr Walter Maeda, a prominent hotelier.

“The problem is that KIA does not have the capacity to handle thousands of travellers… Nairobi can”, he told The Citizen yesterday when reached on phone to comment on the crisis.

The hotelier noted that instead of the government constructing airports all over the country, more resources should be directed to expand and modernise Kia and JuliusNyerere International Airport (JNIA) in Dar es Salaam.

He warned that the current stand-off was a clear indication that next time the vans would have to drop tourists at Namanga border town.

Mr Andrew Luzze, the executive director of the East African Business Council (EABC), an apex body of private sector associations in the region based in Arusha also faulted the ban.

But a travel consultant based in Arusha, Mr Elisha Mayalla, said the Kenyans were simply implementing the 1985 bilateral agreement with Tanzania made shortly after the re-opening of the common borders.

The executive secretary of the Tourism Confederation of Tanzania (TCT) Richard Rugimbana also exonerated Kenya, saying the neighbouring country was acting in accordance with the 1985 agreement.

He said to the best of his knowledge, airports were not designated as drop-off points for the tourists under the agreement, stressing: “We should go back to find out what the document says before taking any move.”

He called on officials from the two countries to meet and review the bilateral agreement so that they arrive at an amicable solution.

He said despite the introduction of direct flights to Tanzania from some major tourism source countries, JKIA continues to receive a significant number of visitors from abroad heading to Tanzania.

However, he warned that the Kenyan move can be part of the pressure being made, mainly through the EAC, to force Tanzania to open up all her borders for tourists from Kenya, including the Bologonja border post on the Serengeti/Maasai Mara border. The post was closed in the late 1970s.

On Saturday, the Natural Resources and Tourism permanent secretary Dr Adelhelm Meru met with representatives of tour operators in Arusha as the ban on the Tanzanian shuttles to access JKIA started to bite.

Source: The Citizen

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