By Njenga Hakeenah
In February 2015, Tanzania tour vans were denied access to the Jomo Kenyatta International Airport and national parks in Kenya.
This followed the lapse of a three-week window requested by Tanzania to end a travel dispute between the two countries.
Kenya’s then East African Affairs and Tourism Cabinet Secretary Phyllis Kandie said the window elapsed without any plans for talks.
“Three weeks have now expired without our Tanzanian counterparts convening a meeting for negotiations,” Ms Kandie noted on Friday.
With the lapse, Kenya reverted to the 1985 bilateral trade agreement where Tanzanian registered tour vans would no longer be allowed to access the JKIA and Kenyan game parks.
The Tanzanian minister for natural resources and tourism, Lazaro Nyalandu, had pleaded with Kandie to have the tour vans access to the airport since they were locked out the previous year.
Since then, a meeting to sort out the problem within three weeks never took place and Tanzania’s refusal to allow Kenyan vans into the country continues.
With this, the dispute has spiralled out of the tourism sector with many Kenyans accusing Tanzania custom officials of continuously harassing them.
A report by one of the Kenyan publications said that getting clearance at the Tanzania customs offices is frustrating with Tanzania police officers allegedly demanding bribes for goods on transit.
As of 2015, about 300,000 travellers from Tanzania were using the JKIA to access different destinations annually.
Tanzania is consistently being seen as a hindrance to the formation of an EAC trading bloc with requests for ‘time to consult’ coming up often during discussions.
These timeouts have cost Kenya on many occasions with some Kenyans questioning the unappreciated olive branch extensions.
When the EAC-EU deal came to signing, Tanzanian delegates requested time to “consult” delaying implementation of a duty-free quota-free status for Kenya. All EAC states signed the economic partnership agreement between the bloc and the European Union.
While tourism remains a big deal for Kenya, it seems like Tanzania is unwilling to tango.
To ease cross-border tourism, Kenya, Rwanda and Uganda launched a single tourist visa in 2014 and but Tanzania was left behind.
The Kenyan tour operators are still wondering why their Tanzanian counterparts are allowed to access all towns in Kenya while Kenyan tour vans are only allowed access to certain towns in Tanzania.