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EAC ministers to meet over Kenya, Tanzania tour van row

By Kibiwott Koross | March 30th 2015
By Kibiwott Koross | March 30th 2015

East Africa: Ministers from East Africa are set to meet in Tanzania to discuss the current dispute between Kenya and Tanzania, including the demand by local tour operators that they be allowed access to national parks in the neighbouring country.

East African Affairs, Commerce and Tourism Cabinet Secretary Phyllis Kandie said the Foreign Affairs ministers and those responsible for East African affairs will be meeting in Tanzania early next month for discussions expected to end squabbles pitting the two countries that have almost dented their relationship.

Consequently, Ms Kandie asked tour operators from the country to be patient over their calls to have Tanzania allow their vehicles into their parks. "We will look into all these aspects and ensure both countries mutually benefit. We urge tour operators to be patient.These are the issues we will be discussing," she said.

Kenya Association of Tour Operators Chairman Adam Jillo has asked the Government to ensure operators from Kenya are also allowed into Tanzania.

Last week, Foreign Affairs Cabinet Secretary Amina Mohamed said tour vehicles from Tanzania will be allowed access to Jomo Kenyatta International Airport to pick their clients as part of a deal to get Tanzania to allow Kenya Airways resume its 42 scheduled flights.

The Tanzania Civil Association Authority had reduced to 14 weekly flights by KQ, a move seen as made in protest after Kenya's ban on Tanzania's tour vans picking tourists from Jomo Kenyatta International Airport.

Kandie had invoked a 1985 bilateral agreement on tourism between the two countries, which barred tour vans from cross-border operations. Tanzania, however, argued the move was wrong because airports had not been included as tourist sites.

Tour operators from Kenya want access to Tanzania national parks in the upcoming bilateral trade agreement by the two governments.

operate freely

The operators accused the Government of allegedly favouring their Tanzania counterparts by allowing them to operate freely in the country while they were not allowed to drive into their parks.

This means tourists en route to Tanzania will have to be picked at border points at  Namanga, Taveta or Lunga Lunga or use local flights to Dar-es-Salaam or Dodoma from Wilson and JKIA, which would be quite expensive for the tourists.

Winnie Maru of Tembea Kenya says they were forced to be in partnership with some operators in Tanzania. She says after the tourists are done with their visits in Kenya, they are usually taken to Namanga where their cars with Tanzanian numbers would be waiting.

"It has been quite expensive but it has worked for us," she said. Maru says a number of Kenyans in the tour industry were forced to buy other tour vans and have them registered in Tanzania.

Kenyan tour vans are not allowed to drop or pick tourists in Tanzania, including access to attraction sites, airports and airstrips which tour players from Kenya said was giving their Tanzanian counterparts an unfair advantage.

"This issue will be discussed so that no single country feels unfairly treated," said the CS, adding, "We want both countries to benefit from fair business practices and ensure tour operators in the two countries are properly catered for."

Trade agreement

A tripartite meeting between Kenya, Tanzania and Uganda in February last year failed to resolve the long-standing issue between Kenya and Tanzania, leaving Kenya with no option but to revert to the 1985 Bilateral Trade agreement until the agreement was reviewed.

The agreement provided for border dropping/picking points as Lunga Lunga, Taveta, Namanga and Nyakiyakaye on the Kenyan side and Horohoro, Himo, Namanga and Sirari for Tanzania.

The designated regional towns for Tanzania are Tanga, Moshi, Arusha and Musoma while Kenya gives access to all towns. The agreement, however, does not provide for entry into Partner States' airports, game reserves and parks which has been the major bone of contention.

EAC Secretary General Richard Sezibera told journalists in his office earlier this year that it was the wish of the regional organisation to see the cross-border tourism issue be resolved swiftly and amicably for the benefit of the region.

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