Kenya and Tanzania don’t look like they are going to reconcile anytime soon.
A situation that started from what could be a Covid-19-inspired decision has metamorphosed into a full-fledged aviation war between the 2 East African countries.
It is expected that by now both countries would have resorted to diplomatic means to resolve the dispute. But things have taken on a whole new level, as Tanzania appears to be replying Kenya’s restriction decision in more folds.
At the end of July (2020), Kenya excluded Tanzania from making use of its airspace due to coronavirus concerns. The country was exempted from the list of nationals exempted from quarantine when they enter the country. In response, Tanzania banned Kenya Airways (KQ) from entering its airspace.
Now, for the second time, Nairobi has excluded Tanzania, keeping the supposed coronavirus-free nation on the red list of countries with high-risk Covid-19 cases. The position means that travellers from the country will face a compulsory 14-day quarantine once they land, in order to curb infection spread.
The decision seems to have infuriated Tanzanian authorities, who decided to extend the airspace ban to 3 more Kenyan carriers: AirKenya Express, Fly540 and Safarilink. Meanwhile, Kenya Airways, which is currently struggling to survive the pandemic, remains prohibited from flying to Tanzanian destinations.
The Director General of the Tanzania Civil Aviation Authority (TCAA), Hamza Johari, said that basis of the decision to restrict more Kenyan airlines from accessing the country is an offspring of the ongoing dispute between the 2 neighboring countries.
The impact of these restrictions might be hard to determine given that it is early. In the long run, however, the shards of the shattered diplomacy between the countries can effectively turn their bilateral relations into a cut-shaped anomaly.
Africa’s aviation industry was battered by the implications of the coronavirus pandemic. Right now could be the worst time for aviation battles, as airlines are trying to revive their businesses, make up for lost time and apply caution while flying passengers.
Nevertheless, Kenya’s concern is that Tanzania is playing tricks with its coronavirus statistics to hide the reality from the public. This consideration is perhaps well-placed, since Tanzania’s “bulldozer” president, John Magufuli, controversially declared the country free of the virus.
His urge for a pentecostal approach to combating the virus, previously, is also among the reasons Tanzania’s Covid-19 status is still being debated. Meanwhile, Kenya is still trying to flatten its coronavirus curve.
That explains why Nairobi does not want to take chances with a nation whose pandemic stats have remained unchanged for almost 2 months. Also, Tanzania is one of the few African countries that never experienced a coronavirus lockdown.
Johari insists that the ban on Kenyan carriers would not be lifted unless air travelers from Tanzania are treated equally as those on the list. “Some countries are allowed to enter Kenya without the same condition despite having very high rates of Covid-19 infections. What message are they sending to the world about Tanzania?” he told Tanzania’s The Citizen.
Featured Image: Tripindigo
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