Tanzania summons foreign diplomats after confusion over US embassy's terror alert

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KLM withdrew a terror alert for Kenya after some confusion.
KLM withdrew a terror alert for Kenya after some confusion.
PHOTO: Franklin Jacome, Getty Images
  • The US embassy caused confusion in Kenya and Tanzania over the weekend after it issued a terror alert that disrupted air travel.
  • Tanzania summoned diplomatic corps to remind them about international best practice.
  • Royal Dutch Airlines has apologised for issuing its own alert, which was based on the one the embassy had issued.

Tanzania's foreign affairs minister summoned diplomatic corps on Monday to remind them to stick to the international standard of protocol after the US embassy issued a terror alert that caused confusion in Kenya and Tanzania over the weekend.

Through the alert, the embassy advised would-be travellers from the US and Europe that locations they frequented in Dar es Salaam and elsewhere in Tanzania were attractive targets for terrorists. The embassy hinted that attacks occurred with little or no warning and that tourists should be extra careful.

Tanzania tried to allay fears, but the damage had already been done.

Royal Dutch Airlines (KLM) issued a statement announcing the disruption of its services. Initially the notice listed Kenya and Tanzania as targets, but Kenya was later removed.

'False allegations'

The airline was forced to withdraw its statement after Kenyan cabinet secretary, Kipchumba Murkomen, expressed his displeasure at the "fabricated, malicious and false allegations without fact-checking and considering the probable effects to our country's image and economy".

Murkomen vowed to take up the matter through diplomatic channels to avoid a similar occurrence in the future.

The damage was worse in Tanzania, which remained on the airline's notice.

In her meeting with embassies in the capital city, Dodoma, on Monday, foreign affairs minister Stergomena Tax explicitly spoke about Tanzania's disappointment.

She told representatives of embassies to "observe diplomatic communication channels as stipulated by the Vienna Convention when sharing information with the public to avoid creating unnecessary tension within and outside the country".

She also warned foreign embassies about issuing direct messages, such as security alerts, to the public without clearance from the government.

READ | Kenyans can now visit SA without a visa for three months

Tanzania has not suffered a large terrorist assault since the American embassy bombing in 1998, however, there have been a number of smaller-scale incidents.

In October 2020, an attack occurred on the Kitaya community in the Mtwara region, near the Mozambique border. Northern Mozambican-based Islamic radicals took credit for the incident.

In October last year, the US embassy issued a terror alert in Sandton, South Africa, which sparked a diplomatic row with Pretoria.

South African President Cyril Ramaphosa said the alert was unfortunate because it was issued without any discussion with government authorities.

The News24 Africa Desk is supported by the Hanns Seidel Foundation. The stories produced through the Africa Desk and the opinions and statements that may be contained herein do not reflect those of the Hanns Seidel Foundation.

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