UPDATE: Saturday August 1, 3.15pm: Transport CS James Macharia has revealed that Kenya and Tanzania have resolved the air travel issue that saw Kenya Airways flights banned, adds operations to resume soon.
UPDATE, Friday July 31: Tanzania has retaliated by barring Kenya Airways (KQ) flights between Nairobi, Dar es Salaam, Kilimanjaro and Zanzibar effective August 1.
In a statement seen by 254News.co.ke, the Tanzania Civil Aviation Authority added: “This also rescinds our previous arrangements that permit KQ flights into the Republic of Tanzania.”
The letter noted that this will last for a period of two months from August 1 to October 24, 2020.
UPDATE, Friday July 31: Three more countries were cleared to resume direct air travel to Kenya.
The countries, which include UK, France and Qatar will now join their peers that consist of China, South Korea, Japan, Canada and Ethiopia among others.
Some state from the US exempting California, Florida and Texas will also be allowed to fly to Kenya.
Transport CS James Macharia on Thursday July 30 released a list of countries allowed to fly into Kenya which includes China, South Korea, Japan, Canada, Zimbabwe and Ethiopia, with neighbours Tanzania the surprise omission from the list.
Others include France, Rwanda, Uganda, Namibia and Morocco.
On Tuesday July 28, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs denied claims that the Kenyan delegation to President Benjamin Mkapa’s funeral was turned back mid-air by the Tanzanian authorities.
The plane carrying West Pokot Senator Samuel Poghisio, who is the Senate Majority leader, returned to Nairobi as soon as it reached Monduli in Tanzania, The Citizen reported.
This was confirmed by Tanzania’s Foreign Affairs Minister Palamagamba Kabudi, who revealed they expected President Uhuru Kenyatta’s envoy.
Introducing guests at the funeral service in Uhuru Stadium, Kabudi said they had received information that the plane carrying Poghisio had been forced to turn mid-air because of bad weather.
“We were expected to have with us the special envoy representing President Uhuru Kenyatta, Senator Samuel Losuron Poghisio… but we have received information that his plane was forced to turn mid-air in Monduli. The information we have is that the plane is expected to land safely in Nairobi,” Kabudi revealed.
Sought for a comment, the Foreign Affairs ministry agreed with Tanzanian authorities’ version of events.
“It was a technical problem. Kenya was, therefore, represented by High Commissioner Dan Kazungu. He is at the funeral service,” head of public communications Jane Kariuki said on the phone.
The claims of possible retaliation by Tanzania were linked to comments made by President Uhuru Kenyatta on Monday July 27.
Speaking during his 10th Presidential Address on COVID-19, President Kenyatta told Kenyans not to think countries that are not releasing their coronavirus data are doing any better in handling the pandemic.
“Let’s not compare ourselves and say some places don’t have the virus. Why do we have it, and they don’t? Let me remind Kenyans, we live in a democracy where there is media freedom. As a state, we don’t have the power to hide anything. Whatever happens, we tell you.” he began.
“There are others who have that power. But we are proud of the fact that we are a democracy and are able to tell each other the truth and face the reality instead of sweeping the truth under the carpet and have our citizens suffer quietly,” Uhuru added.
Uhuru fell short of naming Tanzania, which has been accused of concealing COVID-19 data and restricting news reporting about the pandemic.
Tanzania last announced its COVID-19 numbers on April 29, when it put its total cases at 480 and 21 deaths.