, NAIROBI, Kenya, Jun 3 – Kenya has protested the cancellation of the maiden entry of direct flights from America to the country by Delta Air Lines.
Foreign Affairs Minister Moses Wetangula on Wednesday summoned US ambassador to Kenya Michael Ranneberger to express the government’s reservations on the manner in which the cancellation was done.
Mr Wetangula regretted that the US government went ahead to cancel the direct flights by Delta Airlines without formally informing the Kenyan authorities of the reasons prompting the cancellation.
“The cancellation was not done in a manner expected of friends because they simply posted something on the website and it was picked by many readers before we as a government were notified,” he said.
Mr Wetangula regretted that the cancellation was ordered after the government had fully complied with conditions outlined by the US authorities.
Mr Ranneberger acknowledged the concerns of the Kenyan authorities but said that the embassy in Nairobi did not have prior knowledge of the action.
“This is a postponement and we are hoping to get this back on track soon but I cannot confirm when,” he said.
Delta Air Lines was set to enter the Kenyan route via West Africa on Wednesday and this was expected to boost tourism and business between Nairobi and Washington. The airline however cancelled the flight on advice from the Department of Homeland Security (DHS).
“Delta in October 2008 notified the U.S. government of its plans to offer new service to Kenya and Liberia. However, Delta was informed only yesterday (Tuesday) by DHS that it would require additional time to approve these new flights,” a statement issued by carrier said on Wednesday.
In Nairobi, Mr Wetangula said the cancellation was likely to affect the tourism sector which is yearning for a boost to survive the effects of the global recession.
“It is covertly amounting to a travel advisory and it is going to hurt our tourism and therefore our economy,” the minister protested.
Mr Ranneberger admitted that the cancellation was due to security concerns but disputed that the instability in Somalia was to blame for the advisory.
And in Parliament the government assured Kenyans that the country was not under any security threat, after the last minute cancellation of the flight. Responding to a question by Nyatike MP Omondi Anyanga, Defence Minister Yusuf Haji told the House that Kenya was safe.
“Kenya is not under any immediate threat of invasion from any neighbouring country,” he said.
MPs linked the cancellation of flights to a threat on Kenya’s national borders citing the controversial saga over Migingo Island and the threat in North Eastern Province by the Al-Shabab militia group.