Masai Mara and Serengeti border issue emerges again


Reports from Tanzania have once again latched on to comments made by Kenyan tourism minister Najib Balala, apparently during a brief holiday in Zanzibar, about the controversial issue of the continued border closure between the Masai Mara and the Serengeti at Bologonja.

The minister had apparently floated the idea of a new, state-of-the-art memorandum of understanding for future tourism cooperation between the two countries, which, too, was received with apparent guarded caution by his Tanzanian counterpart. Balala’s added comments on the need to open up the skies in order to bring airfares down and make air travel more affordable may also remain a distant dream for more time, as here, too, airlines and operators from the other east African member states have long protested about non-tariff barriers being slapped on them, hindering free aviation movement.

Said one of the usually more outspoken charter operators from Uganda to this column, “There are still a few issues we have about flying into Kenya, but flying to Tanzania is almost like flying to another planet, as we are treated like complete aliens, but certainly not as neighbors and members of the EAC.”

The onset of the Common Market for the East African Community, now in transit since January 1 towards a full implementation by June 30 this year, had brought about a number of changes and it is thought by some legal experts that keeping border crossings closed may contravene the protocol and lead to a legal case being brought to the east African court of justice.

In contrast, Rwanda, Uganda, and Kenya are clearly on the cooperation wavelength needed to address the challenges of establishing eastern Africa – especially in the year of the FIFA World Cup in South Africa – as a credible counterbalance vis-a-vis tourism promotion to the SADC block, and having to deal with not entirely committed partners is obviously not helping to globally portray eastern Africa as “one destination with many attractions.”