BY ANTHONY KAGIRI
Moses Wetangula is a disappointed man. Frustrated that the US government that prides itself as the largest democracy in the world could choose to bypass official means of communication and post an important decision as good as a travel advisory on its website.
Worse still is that reasons of cancellation of direct flights between Washington and Nairobi by Delta Air Lines were not clearly stated. Rules of engagement dictate that the US government should have taken up any matters with the government officially and seek clarifications before posting such an important issue on the internet for all to read.
As the country’s top diplomat, Mr Wetangula expressed feelings of many of us. Like any other sovereign state we ought to be treated with respect and decorum. I join the protest over the last-minute cancellation taking into account the manner in which it was done.
The flights were to embark from Atlanta’s Hartsfield-Jackson airport and arrive in Nairobi with a welcoming ceremony by Prime Minister Raila Odinga. Mr Odinga and US ambassador to Kenya Michael Rannerberger would still have made it to the airport to receive the inaugural flight were it not for the media who picked up the story. Worse still Transport Minister Ali Mwakwere having travelled to Washington got to know of the cancellation on his way to Atlanta, a few hours to the maiden flight. Such an embarrassment is quite disappointing.
I congratulate our Foreign Affairs Minister on the manner on which he handled the matter. It was right for him to summon the US Ambassador to explain the conduct of his government and let him know that Kenya had taken exception with the decision. Rannerberger should let his government know that the country demands to be treated well.
As Wetangula put it, the conduct of the US government does not match that of a friendly country. The US cannot communicate to Kenya through Web postings. Kenya being a very close strategic partner of the US in the region surely expects better treatment. America has courted us when they need to sign pacts on tackling terrorism, piracy and business deals beneficial to them. We have continued to stomach directives from Rannerberger and its now our time to get good treatment.
The reasons given by US DHS Secretary Janet Napolitano that the move follows recommendations from the Transportation Security Administration is also not convincing.
I am at a loss at how many flights are currently taxing to land at the Jomo Kenyatta International Airport. These airlines emanate from the largest capitals of the world; Beijing, London, Johannesburg, Cairo, Peking, Tehran, Dubai etc. One is left to wonder what makes Washington more special.
The US government should come out and explain to the world about the security concerns they have against Kenya. This will ensure that the administration in Nairobi takes urgent measures to forestall any security breach as it has happened before mainly as a result of our ties with Washington.
By leaving it to Kenya and the rest of the world to guess the reasons only opens up the matter for speculation which could be more hurting to the country. The effects of a perceived travel advisory cannot be underestimated and for a country already facing challenges of recession which started in the US it is unfortunate.
Analysts are now speculating that the increased fighting in Somalia and recent threat information indicating possible attacks against U.S. interests in East Africa could have prompted the Department of Homeland Security to deny Delta Airlines their first direct flights to Nairobi. If this is the case, then it is also unfair; it is the US and other western nations that have failed to fully commit themselves to resolve the crisis in Somalia.
I rest my case hoping that Washington will positively respond to Wetangula’s petition.
(Anthony Kagiri is a Capital News reporter)