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Diplomatic row looms as Kenya's access to Tanzanian airspace cut

NEWS
By Frankline Sunday | March 18th 2015
A Kenya Airways plane at the Jomo Kenyatta International Airport. Tanzania has slapped restrictions on flights entering its airspace. [photo: file/standard]

A diplomatic row is looming between Kenya and Tanzania after the latter slapped restrictions on flights entering its airspace.

The Tanzania Civil Aviation Authority (TCAA) has cut the frequency of flights from Kenya by as much as 30 per cent, setting the stage for another round of diplomatic and trade disputes between the two East African countries.

Starting today, flights from Nairobi to Dar es Salaam have been reduced from 42 per week to 14, a decision that is bound to have a direct and adverse impact on tourism and trade between the two countries.

In a letter seen by The Standard, TCAA has further cancelled all previously scheduled flights by Kenya's national carrier, Kenya Airways, pending a revised flight schedule.

The decision follows a stalemate on the Bilateral Air Services Agreements (Basa), in which Tanzania blames Kenya for maintaining a hard stance despite eight years of negotiations.

"The United Republic of Tanzania regrets that the discussions could not come into consensus on the matter relating to principal place of business and effective regulatory control as a criterion for airline designation parallel to the majority ownership and effective control requirement," read the letter in part.

TCAA further said the matter has been an agenda for the past eight years, raised for the first time by the Tanzania government in 2007. Delegates from the two countries met again in Nairobi in February 2011, and in Indonesia in November 2014 and discussed the matter. But it has not been resolved to date, with Tanzania claiming to be the biggest loser.

"Having considered the gravity of the non-acceptance by Kenya of the proposed criterion by Tanzania and time taken, I am instructed to inform you that the Aeronautical Authorities of the United Republic of Tanzania wish to implement several actions before contemplating any future Basa review," read the letter.

"Total frequencies per week on Nairobi-Dar es Salaam route reduced to 14 per week from the current 42  per week. All previous approved Kenya Airways flights scheduled by TCAA were cancelled and hence the revised flight schedule.

TRADE TIFFS

TCAA has further restricted the entry and exit points to three: Kilimanjaro, Dar-es-Salaam and Zanzibar, with the type of equipment restricted to the Embraer 190 or Boeing 737-800. The Kenya government is yet to issue an official statement on the matter, with the Kenya Civil Aviation Authority (KCAA) stating that the Ministry of Transport is the body mandated to speak on bilateral negotiations.

"Any negotiations between governments are not going to be rushed but I would refer you to the Ministry of Transport for further comment," stated KCAA Communication Officer Mutia Mwandikwa. "However, under the East African Community spirit, the motive is to open up the regional airspace," he added.

The developments are the latest diplomatic and trade tiffs between Kenya and Tanzania. Last month, tour vans from Tanzania were denied access into the Jomo Kenyatta International Airport, setting the stage for frosty relations between tourism stakeholders from the two countries.

The move by Tanzania also comes barely three months after the presidents of Uganda, Kenya, Rwanda and South Sudan signed a pact on the management of the Northern Corridor Air Space bloc expected to reduce the cost of air travel in the region.

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