Tanzania has expressed grave concern over Kenya’s decision to ban vehicles registered in Tanzania from entering Jomo Kenyatta International Airport in Nairobi to drop off and pick up tourists, saying the move violates the two neighbouring countries’ 1985 bilateral agreement on cooperation in tourism.
According to the government the move is also against the agreement reached by both governments mid January this year.
The agreement requires Kenya to uplift the ban as officials from both countries work on the possibilities to review the bilateral agreement on cooperation in tourism.
Addressing journalists yesterday in Dar es Salaam, East African Cooperation Minister Dr Harrison Mwakyembe wondered as to why Kenya had decided to restore the ban while the deadline for reviewing the bilateral agreement is March 31st, this year.
Dr Mwakyembe said that in their January meeting, this year both parties agreed that Tanzania will take a lead in convening and hosting the bilateral meeting to review the agreement because it is the current chair of the East African Community (EAC).
However, Kenya’s Trade and Tourism Cabinet Secretary, Phyllis Kandie claimed last week that a three-week window requested by Tanzania to allow the two countries to discuss and sort out the issue had elapsed without Tanzanian convening the meeting for negotiations.
According to Dr Mwakyembe, Kenya’s move does comply with the vision for establishment of the EAC.
He explained that the recent move by Kenyan government is meant to force Tanzania to initiate the process of reviewing the 1985’s bilateral agreement.
“Reviewing the bilateral agreement requires involvement of various stakeholders…it cannot be done in a hurry. We need to get opinions from other related ministries and players in the private sectors,” said the EAC Minister, adding that Kenya shouldn’t force the review by banning Tanzanian tour vans.
He noted that, the talks have already started involving officials from Ministries of Finance, Tourism and Natural Resources, Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation, Home Affairs, Transport and the Parliamentary Committee on Land, Natural Resources and Environment.
The minister also said that despite the ban, the country’s tourism sector is performing well. He said the ban has not affected the economy and revenues from the tourism sector as tourists still came in the country.
“We respect our bilateral friendship that has existed for almost 50 years…we will continue to respect and obey the order so as to safeguard the friendship and the integration we have via the EAC,” said Dr Mwakyembe.
He further said that all international airports in Tanzania will continue to be a gateway to within and outside the EAC. He said that entry points cannot be considered as tourist attractions.
“We will continue allow motor vehicles from the EAC member states in our land so long as they don’t go to the tourist attractions…we are open for anyone who want to drop off or pick up tourists from our entry points,” he said.
He also mentioned some of the issues that were discussed during the January meeting with their Kenyan counterparts as Kenya’s refusal to recognise Tarakea route for transit goods and delays by Kenya Revenue Authority (KRA) to release information to their counterpart Tanzania Revenue Authority (TRA) for goods clearance.
For her part, Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of East African Cooperation, Joyce Mapunjo said that Kenya has adversely gone against the agreement signed by two nations in January, this year.
Mapunjo said the incident has led to inconveniences within the tourism business in both countries.