The drama between Kenya and Tanzania is not quite closed. While the meeting last week was a bit productive, no permanent solutions were agreed upon. The two countries will meet again next month to fully resolve the issue. These time before the next meeting is being used to think through the impasse and we assume figure out what they want to do about their conflict. Kenya , in a gesture of goodwill, restored Tanzania tour service vehicles access to JKIA, in the mean time a more permanent arrangement is in the works.
Information from Nairobi indicates that the two countries will meet on the 05th February, 2015. the venue is yet to be confirmed. Both sides are said to be working feverishly on a comprehensive wish list and an agenda of grievances, which suggests that the February meeting will only be a first of many as several agenda items are controversial at best and insurmountable at worst.
For the most part the conflict appears to be a tit for tat contest between the two countries, following the 1985 agreement after the collapse of the EAC then.
The demand to open the Bologonja border once again for all traffic is probably highest o the agenda for the Kenyan delegation that is participating in the negotiations. A very worthwhile demand since it will cut on reduce on travel time and make Safaris across East Africa a lot easier. Some sources in Nairobi have even suggested that Kenyan tour services are offering to refrain from day excursions and accept that vehicles entering at Bologonja must exit at a different border point such as Namanga after completing visits to the Serengeti, Ngorongoro, Lake Manyara and Tarangire.
The change in border traffic is not entirely a Kenyan demand. A number of international tour operators have pushed for it too because they believe there will be some cos benefits besides making safari itineraries more convenient for their clients who want to go on Tanzania safaris, Kenya and Uganda safaris or across the entire region.
A Kenyan source is quoted as saying, “We burn a lot more fuel operating safaris via Namanga than would be the case if Bologonja were open. If no progress is made though we still have the option to stop access to JKIA again. It is sad that this affects safari tourists but if this entire East African Community thing has any meaning these issues must be resolved. Look how far the Northern Corridor cooperation has gone in a year, simply because everyone involved has seen the benefits to work hand in hand. We no longer have to pay for work permits when operating into Uganda or Rwanda. We have a common tourist Visa for all three countries and after a slow start it has began to sell. We have had our phone tariffs aligned and even air transport has eased among the three. Why not expand these gains to the other two EAC members as well’. He does make a fine point.
Tanzanian tour operators operators however ado not agree with his sentiment. They are sure that should access to Bologonja be opened, and the country were to permit unfettered access of vehicles and personnel to the Tanzanian parks they would be swept away by what some of them are calling ‘The Kenyan avalanche’. It is for this reason that even Kenyan and Ugandan airlines are kept out of the park airfields and always drop their passengers off at designated drop off points.
Hopefully this issue can be amicably resolved and strengthen the EAC union across the entire region rather than encourage the countries in the Northern corridor i.e Uganda, Kenya and Rwanda to draw closer together leaving the other two out.