By Prof. Dr. Wolfgang H. Thome, ETN Africa
Tanzania is doing it again. Frosty relations between want to be partners like Rwanda. When, according to a regular aviation source in Dar es Salaam, Air Tanzania suddenly raised objections about plans by RwandAir, which sought 5th freedom traffic rights for future flights from Kigali, via Dar es Salaam, to Mumbai in India, pundits were swift to read the tea leaves in their attempts to make sense of it all.
RwandAir is already holding 5th freedom traffic rights for their regular flights from Kigali, via Mombasa to Dubai, a situation backed up through the respective aviation protocol of the East African Community and NOT objected to by any of the Kenyan airlines.
In Tanzania though, often seen as a reluctant partner in the EAC by others and expressly not part of the so called ‘Coalition of the Willing’ which has seen Rwanda, Uganda and Kenya seeking not only closer ties but aligning major infrastructure projects and cooperating closely on security and the vision of a single customs territory which is seen as a major stimulant for an increase in trade and economic prosperity, the mood is not so accommodating.
The two countries were over the past year undergoing a cooling of relations over ill-considered remarks by Tanzania’s President Kikwete, who was either blue-eyed or more likely badly misinformed, had suggested that Rwanda sit down with the killer militias based in Eastern Congo and negotiate a peace agreement. This was by this correspondent at the time likened to an attempt during the 1930’s and 1940’s to have the European Jews try and negotiate a treaty with the Nazi regime, totally out of question and totally misreading the realities on the ground, where the FDLR remains sworn to a cause to destroy the new Rwanda and resume the genocide.
The sudden objection and refusal to accept the RwandAir request for 5th freedom rights is now seen by many as Tanzania using yet another platform to hit back at Rwanda, suggesting continued cool relations between two EAC member states.
Understandably were no comments received from Rwanda while the Tanzania Civil Aviation Authority has now reportedly stepped into the fray suggesting the two parties sit down and discuss the way forward. This however seems a tough proposition considering the fact that Air Tanzania had reportedly made outrageous financial demands on RwandAir to drop their objections, again suggesting that they had political backing to do so ‘from above’. With the ongoing financial support by the Tanzanian government it cannot be ruled out that the airline has become a willing tool in the present stage play between the two countries, if for nothing else to please their financial masters and get the funds needed to lease at least two more aircraft in coming months.
‘You know better, nothing can be ruled out and for sure our autocracy here in Tanzania provides the right playing field to make such things happen. These guys at ATCL are literally broke and might do anything to please their paymasters and keep the money flowing. I wonder if this is going back to the bad old days when national airlines were just an appendix of governmental policies and directions’ added another aviation source from Dar. Continued needle prick policies or what, is the question here. Watch this space