Travel

Kenyan Airline Suspends Paris Flights

Kenya's flagship airline suspended flights between Nairobi and Paris on Tuesday due to the dwindling number of passengers flying to this once-stable African nation, the latest economic fallout from a violent political crisis.

Kenya's wildlife and beaches have made it one Africa's most popular travel destinations, but there has been a major drop in visitors -- and the money they bring in -- since results of a Dec. 27 election unleashed weeks of violence in which more than 1,000 people were killed.

U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice on Monday increased pressure on Kenya's rival politicians to share power, but there were no immediate signs of a deal at deadlocked peace talks, which resumed Tuesday.

With the future uncertain, the tourism industry has continued to suffer. Kenya Airways chief executive Titus Naikuni said Tuesday that the airline would suspend its three flights per week between Paris and Nairobi as of Feb. 26 because of a sharp decline in bookings.

"French citizens reacted to their government's decision to issue a blanket travel advisory against travel to Kenya," Naikuni explained in a statement. He added that the airline was hopeful flights would resume in time for Europe's summer travel season.

Britain and the United States, also key sources of visitors to Kenya, have issued travel advisories cautioning their citizens against going to parts of Kenya. British carriers have continued to fly to Kenya, although no U.S. airlines currently make the trip.

Nairobi serves as an air-travel hub for eastern Africa. The suspension will also disrupt connections to a handful of French-speaking countries in the region, including Congo and Rwanda.

Tuesday's statement was more bad news for a tourism industry already reeling from the violence. On the coast, where the 34,000 available hotel rooms are usually filled from December to March, there were 1,900 visitors in early February.

The Kenya Private Sector Alliance has estimated the country's political crisis may cost as many as 400,000 jobs, and that losses to businesses could reach the equivalent of $3.6 billion by June.

That has added to the pressure on Kenya's political rivals trying to work out a viable power-sharing arrangement.

Former U.N. chief Kofi Annan is mediating the talks, and he met on Tuesday with President Mwai Kibaki to discuss the negotiations. Kibaki said afterward that he was committed to working with the opposition to find a way out of the crisis.

Annan and Rice, who made a one-day trip to Kenya on Monday, are pushing Kibaki and opposition leader Raila Odinga, who says the election was stolen from him, to share power.

"I frankly believe that the time for a political settlement was yesterday," Rice said before departing.

Odinga expressed similar sentiments, saying his party had hoped a deal would have been reached sooner.

The opposition leader also outlined for the first time publicly his party's proposals for ending the stalemate, which were submitted to Annan. They include having Kibaki share power with a prime minister and two deputy prime ministers.

The election, which foreign and local observers say was rigged, returned Kibaki to power for a second five-year term after Odinga's lead evaporated overnight. The controversy has stirred up grievances over land and poverty that have bedeviled Kenya since independence in 1963.

Much of the fighting has pitted other ethnic groups against Kibaki's Kikuyu tribe, long resented for dominating politics and the economy.

Annan announced last week that the rivals had agreed to an independent review of the election and to draw up a new constitution within a year, which could pave the way for a prime minister's post or another way to share power.

Copyright © 2015, Los Angeles Times
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