The Kenya-Tanzania airspace war is far from over after Dar es Salaam banned three more Kenyan airlines from its territory as the standoff over Covid-19 travel protocols escalates.
Three weeks ago, the government of Tanzania banned national carrier Kenya Airways from flying into the country until further notice. Tanzania retaliated after Kenya excluded it from the list of countries allowed to operate international flights starting August 1.
Tanzania Civil Aviation Authority on Tuesday suspended Fly 540, Air Kenya Express and Safarilink Aviation, which operated daily flights to and from Kilimanjaro and Zanzibar.
“Reference is made to the approval for your summer schedule application extended to Air Kenya Express. The approval was granted to Air Kenya for schedule flight operations between Nairobi and Kilimanjaro with effect from March 27 to October 25. However, we regret to inform you that this approval is hereby nullified,” TCAA director-general Hamza Johari said in the letter to Air Kenya’s operations manager.
“You will therefore be allowed to apply afresh for any operations into Tanzania before consideration can be made,” Johari added.
And while TCAA did not give any reasons as to why it was nullifying the approvals, Johari told The Citizen that the basis of the decision to nullify their approval for the three airlines was the ongoing dispute between the two countries.
“The ban on Kenya’s four airlines would not be lifted unless air travellers from Tanzania are accorded the same treatment as those on the list. Some countries’ nationalities can enter Kenya without the same conditions despite having extremely high rates of Covid-19 infections.”
The two neighbouring states are locked in a disagreement over the handling of passengers arriving from Dar es Salaam, after Kenya excluded Tanzania from the list of countries whose nationals would be allowed entry under revised coronavirus restrictions.
Despite Kenya Ministry of Foreign Affairs denying there are differences, Tanzania government Spokesperson Dr Hassan Abbasi on Tuesday August 11 admitted there is indeed a diplomatic tiff with Kenya but termed it as a “diplomatic principle”.
“Diplomacy is governed by a principle known as reciprocity, and Kenya has excluded Tanzania from countries whose flights can access its airspace. “At this time, they (Kenyans) can stop coming. It is not a tiff but a diplomatic principle,” Abbasi said.
Last week, Nairobi expanded the list whose nationals are allowed entry without the mandatory 14-day quarantine to 100 countries, but Tanzania is still missing from it.
On Tuesday, Kenya reiterated its stand that all high-risk tourists visiting the country, including Tanzanians, will have to undergo 14-day quarantine.
Tourism Cabinet Secretary Najib Balala said the Kenyan and Tanzanian governments are working towards a modality that will see its national carriers, Kenya Airways and Precision Air resume operations between the two states.