How Kenya snatched Kenya Airways from under Uganda, Tanzania noses

How Kenya snatched Kenya Airways from under Uganda, Tanzania noses

Presidents Jomo Kenyatta and Julius Nyerere at Port Reitz Airport when the Tanzanian leader called for a top-level discussion. April 15, 1975. Long before Dar es Salaam had an iconic Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) that is the envy of her neighbours, it built an airport that was graced more by grazing cows than aircraft.

Those were the days before the dramatic collapse of the East African Community (EAC) in 1977.

Tanzania’s President Julius Nyerere accused Kenya of monopolising the community and using corporations such as East African Airways as its properties.

“In an attempt to counter the dominance of the Nairobi airport, the Tanzanians built an international airport at Mount Kilimanjaro, which remains all but unused, as international airlines, as well as East African, continue to fly to Nairobi,” reported the New York Times on December 20, 1976.

The spat would end acrimoniously, with Nyerere closing Tanzanian borders in a huff, while Kenya grabbed all the corporations that were headquartered in Nairobi, including East African Airways and the East African Railways, leaving Dar es Salaam with various political offices for the defunct regional bloc and Uganda with nothing but misery under the tumultuous reign of dictator Idi Amin. READ MORE

For the Tanzanians, the failure of its airport to attract traffic was seen as proof that the cards were stacked against them.

Kenya, Nyerere argued, had inherited more investments from the colonialists than its peers with whom it was expected to operate as co-equals.

A stronger Kenyan economy meant that Ugandans and Tanzanians consumed mostly Kenyan goods.

Unfortunately, in a duty-free environment, Uganda and Tanzania were denied revenues from the exports that came through Kenya.

A study by the International Monetary Fund (IMF) two years after the collapse of the EAC in 1977 showed that Kenya controlled up to 70 per cent of the export market in the region.

Consequently, the two countries wanted the by-laws that established the EAC in 1967 revised to give Tanzania and Uganda a level playing field in the community.Kenyans chided Nyerere for his scheme to extend his planned economy to the EAC, noting that no number of flights to the Kilimanjaro airport would help matters if no one wanted to go there.Nyerere’s socialist vision included creating a pious nation not profaned by Western values that had eroded many countries’ pride and destroyed their tradition through the incursion of tourists.Thus, despite possessing some of the most beautiful parks, lakes and mountains on the […]

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