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Eastern Africa Befuddled

Kenya upset over Delta move

Wolfgang H. Thome, eTN  Sep 15, 2010

(eTN) - Liberia welcomed the inaugural flight last week by Delta to Monrovia from Atlanta, Georgia, which, while celebrated with great fanfare there, left aviation observers in Eastern Africa befuddled and in some cases angry and disappointed.

Last year, Delta’s inaugural flight to Nairobi, previously postponed several times already when the economic circumstances were not favorable, was cancelled just hours before the aircraft was to the leave the United States for East Africa, throwing the welcoming party at Nairobi’s Jomo Kenyatta International Airport into total confusion, until finally confirmation was given that the flight was off, while causing consternation among those invited to fly from the US to Kenya to witness the occasion.

At the time, as the story was told, security concerns had suddenly emerged leading to the airline’s permits being withdrawn by US government agencies, upsetting the Kenyan establishment, which saw this as a politically-motivated action aimed to "clobber us into submission on so many issues" as one official in Nairobi put it to this correspondent at the time.

The latest snub for Kenya came last week when Delta launched their Monrovia flights, again leaving out of Nairobi, reportedly on advice from the same US government agencies over ongoing security concerns – something which, however, had fallen on deaf ears by a multitude of other airlines and their own home governments who consider flying to Kenya as normal.

Sources from Nairobi were swift in condemning the move, which some said are in line with the anti-travel advisories the State Department habitually peddled against Kenya, and in line with recent public statements made by President Obama, when he strongly condemned the visit by Khartoum’s regime leader Bashir to the promulgation of Kenya’s new constitution.

"This is just another attempt by the American government to make us give in to so many demands from them, but we are a sovereign country, and they should not dictate to us or use such methods to force us," said one regular aviation source, while another in a rather sarcastic fashion said, "Did Obama’s father not come from here? What issues does he have with us? We even gave him a special paternal home attraction near Kisumu and for what - that we can be pushed around by them?"

Strong words and sentiments but not completely without foundation of course, considering the history of Liberia – which undoubtedly under their new government has made great progress – while singling out Kenya.

Kenya upset over Delta move
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