Tension as Tanzania bans Kenya Airways from its airspace

Tension as Tanzania bans Kenya Airways from its airspace

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The Tanzania Civil Aviation Authority (TCAA) has “on reciprocal basis” rescinded its approval granted to Kenya Airways to resume international flights to Tanzania.

The retaliation is a reaction to Kenya’s omission of Tanzania from the list of 16 countries allowed to resume international flights into Kenya effective August 1, 2020, since the airports’ shutdown in March when the coronavirus pandemic hit East Africa. 

Kenya Transport cabinet secretary, James Macharia said flights from Uganda, Rwanda, Namibia, Morocco, Ethiopia Canada, Japan, South Korea, UAE, Qatar, Italy, UK France, Switzerland, USA (except California, Florida and Texas) can resume flying to Kenya so long as passengers arrive with PCR-based COVID-19 negative certificates and body temperature not exceeding 37.5 degrees. 

In a July 31 letter signed by the Tanzania Civil Aviation Authority director general Hamza. S. Johari said Tanzania regrets to nullify its approval for Kenya Airways flights between Nairobi and Dares Salam, Kilimanjaro and Zanzibar effective August 1 until further notice.

”This letter also rescinds all previous arrangements that permit KQ flights into the Republic of Tanzania,” Johari wrote.

The latest tit-for-tat is an escalation of the souring diplomatic tensions between the countries over the handling of the coronavirus pandemic.

Back in April, Kenya’s Citizen TV that described Magufuli as “stubborn” for refusing to impose a total lockdown was ordered together with its sister radio to carry a live apology every hour for seven days if they did not want to have their licences revoked. 

Tanzania has severally been criticised by its neighbours for its lax approach to the coronavirus pandemic after President John Pombe Magufuli declined World Health Organisation (WHO) recommendations to lockdown the country to mitigate the spread of the virus.

Although Magufuli closed airports and schools, he refused to ban public transport, places of worship, arguing that the economy didn’t need to be disrupted. In fact, he encouraged Tanzanians to throng churches and mosques to pray for coronavirus out of Tanzania. 

Later, he accused Kenya of economic sabotage after Kenya blocked Tanzanian cross-border truck drivers who tested positive for coronavirus from entering Kenya. Tanzania said the drivers had been retested in Tanzania and found to be negative. Tanzania retaliated by also blocking Kenyan trucks from entering crossing its borders.

Magufuli later urged Tanzanian farmers to sell expensively their produce to neighbouring countries that had locked up their countries due to coronavirus so as ‘to teach them a lesson.’ Kenya, in particular, is faced with an ongoing food crisis caused by drought and subsequent flooding. 

Last month, Tanzania reopened its airports, allowing in tourists but it accused neighbouring countries of painting a false picture to the world about the severity of the pandemic in Tanzania so as to discourage tourists. 

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