Dar es Salaam. Foreign Affairs Minister Dr Stergomena Tax on Monday held talks with Tanzania’s development partners to assure them of the state of national security in the East African nation following reports of civil unrest that have been going on for the last three days.
Dr Tax met with the development partners in the capital Dodoma with the goal of making sure that they understand the government’s perspective as well as the efforts it’s taking to address the reports.
“I met with the representatives of Tanzania’s development partners this morning [of January 30, 2023,] and we had a very fruitful discussion that was aimed at assuring them that our country is safe and that there are no security threats,” Dr Tax told a press conference.
“Because of the panic that ensued, all embassies [in Tanzania] could have closed down and instructed their people not to come to Tanzania because of security issues but none of them did so,” Dr Tax added.
“[Tanzania] values the contribution [of development partners], we value them as our development partners and we are ready to work with them on all areas of importance,” she noted.
Dr Tax becomes the third high-ranking government official to come out and address the reports that were first raised by a Dutch airline KLM.
The airline published on its website that due to “civil unrest” in Tanzania and Kenya some of its flights to, from or via Dar es Salaam, Kilimanjaro, Zanzibar and Nairobi “may be disrupted” from January 27 to January 30, 2023.
The airline told its customers who might have booked flights within those dates to “rebook,” saying “we are doing our very best to help you on your way again.”
Following a backlash, the airline later removed Kenya from its earlier statement and replaced “civil unrest” with “local threat” for Tanzania.
On Sunday, Minister for Works and Transport Prof Makame Mbarawa said that he had received “with serious concerns” the decision by Dutch airline KLM to cancel its flight to Tanzania, citing civil unrest.
In a statement, Prof Mbarawa described the airline’s statement as “baseless, alarmist, unfounded, inconsiderate and insensitive” that “has caused unnecessary fear and panic to the general public and the aviation industry at large.”
“The public is urged to ignore the statement [by KLM],” Mr Mbarawa added in the statement.
Tanzania’s reaction to the airline’s move that sent shock waves in East Africa and beyond came high on the heels of that of its neighbouring Kenya whose cabinet secretary for roads and transport Mr Kipchumba Murkomen slammed the statement as “fabricated, malicious and false.”
KLM’s country manager for Tanzania Mr Alexender van de Wint later apologized for not describing the reason why the airline had to decide not to let its screw stopover in Dar es Salaam.
“The use of the phrase ‘civil unrest’ was wrong for which we sincerely apologize,” Mr van de Wint said in a statement. “A specific local threat has prompted us to make this decision. We cannot give further details about this security issue.”
KLM’s decision to warn about the “local threat” in Tanzania, however, comes a few days after the U.S. embassy in Dar es Salaam warned the citizens of the North American nation in Dar es Salaam to be “alert to your surroundings.”
“Locations frequented by U.S. citizens and other Westerners in Dar es Salaam and elsewhere in Tanzania continue to be attractive targets to terrorists planning to conduct attacks,” the alert stated.
“Terrorist groups could attack with little or no warning, targeting hotels, embassies, restaurants, malls and markets, police stations, places of worship, and other places frequented by Westerners,” it added.
“Be alert to your surroundings,” the Embassy urged U.S. citizens living in Dar es Salaam. “Practice personal security measures [and] stay alert in locations frequented by tourists/Westerners.”
But the alert was downplayed by police spokesperson David Misime a day later, on January 26, 2023, saying the security situation in Tanzania’s commercial capital is stable.