Following the news in last week about the hard hitting (anti) travel advisory issued by the US Department of State against visiting Zanzibar’s Pemba Island, and the subsequent outcry and complaints in the Tanzanian media and from the country’s tourism sector, the US embassy in Dar es Salaam has issued some feeble statements to defuse and mitigate the situation.
“We have no hidden agenda” was the underlying tenor of the press statements handed out, adding, “We only warn our citizens of the possible problems they might encounter during a visit.”
The harsh language, however, could not be explained away, nor the fact that other leading Western nations did not mirror the American “concerns” further fueling speculation that indeed a hidden agenda is at work, suspected to extract concessions on a range of issues before then suddenly revising the offensive contents again.
Local Zanzibari officials also blamed the US authorities of double standards, saying travel advisories against for instance South Africa, a country faced with arguably greater violence and many daily deaths compared with Pemba Island, was nowhere near as strong and preventative for travelers and that in Zanzibar and Pemba no tourist visitors have come to harm.
The embassy spokesperson further enraged the situation when claiming that they do not need “anyone’s approval” to issue their advisories and protect their citizens.
While this might technically be correct, it is not good practice to rub it into the Zanzibari faces while elsewhere professing friendship.
Meanwhile, it is noteworthy that most Americans now recognize (anti) travel advisories for what they are, i.e. political tools to absolve the State Department from potential law suits and related liabilities, and ignore and defy them on a regular basis.
Zanzibari sources from both government and the tourism private sector rejected the explanation by the embassy and continued to demand that the anti Zanzibari travel advisory be substantially reworded or withdrawn altogether.