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Suluhu visit marks new dawn in Kenya-Tanzania relations

By Irene Githinji
Wednesday, May 5th, 2021
President Samia Suluhu was yesterday evening joined by a cross-section of Kenyan Muslim women for Iftar at State House, Nairobi, ahead of a State banquet hosted in her honour by President Uhuru Kenyatta and First Lady Margaret Kenyatta. Photo/PSCU
In summary

Tanzanian President Samia Suluhu Hassan’s maiden visit to Kenya yesterday ushered in a new dawn in the hitherto frosty relations between the two neighbouring states.

Speaking at State House, Nairobi, where she was hosted by President Uhuru Kenyatta, moments after jetting into the country yesterday morning, President Suluhu outlined her desire to improve relations between the two countries and increase Tanzania’s investments in the country significantly.

“On behalf of Kenyans, I welcome you to Kenya on your first visit, this is truly a historic visit, a visit that gives direction to relations between the two countries – a relationship that began way back while we were fighting for our independence,” said Uhuru in his opening remarks, setting the tone for his guest’s speech.

When she took to the podium, Suluhu assured that Tanzania will now come in full swing to invest in Kenya, lamenting that only 30 Tanzanian companies worth about Sh19 billion, have set base in the country, employing just about 2,600 Kenyans.

Embracing brotherhood

This, compared to the 513 Kenyan companies, worth $1.7 billion that have invested in Tanzania and employed about 51,000 Tanzanians, she went on.

Nimeweka ahadi kwamba Tanzania tutakuja kwa nguvu yote Kenya kuja kuekeza ili kukuza ujazo wa biashara (I have promised that Tanzania will come to in full swing to invest in Kenya to build on the volume of trade,” assured Suluhu.

She said that he deliberations with Uhuru were fruitful and focused on uniting the two countries and boosting the economy.

Nianze kwanza na kumshukuru kaka yangu President Uhuru kwa kunialika kutembea Kenya, nakushuru kwa makaribisho mazuri tuliopata  mimi pamoja na niliofuatana nao (I start by thanking President Uhuru for inviting me to visit Kenya and for the warm welcome we’ve received together with my delegation),” President Suluhu said as she kicked off her speech.

Moving forward, she said Tanzania will not only seek to streamline her way of doing businesses but also embracing brotherhood acquired over time.

“We have deliberated with the President on several issues but I want to insist on the need to strengthen relations and cooperation between our two countries, that is very important … Tanzania and Kenya are not only good neighbours but also embrace brotherhood,” she said.

She added: “The border between Kenya and Tanzania is the biggest compared to other countries, but on that border, there is neighbourhood among Kenyans and Tanzanians.” 

President Uhuru described the Tanzanian leader’s visit as historic owing to the fact that she is the first female President in the East African region, even as he congratulated her for the opportunity to lead the vast country.

Uhuru said the visit was an opportunity to renew bilateral relations between the two countries, as he assured that Kenya, on its part, will be in the frontline to work with Suluhu’s government to posterity.

He said the two governments will ensure unity in East African countries and neighbourhood will continue to thrive and benefit citizens form both countries.

“We had an opportunity to deliberate with President Suluhu on issues affecting our countries – countries that have been brought together by not only the geography but also common cultures, language, shared heritage and kinsmaship,” said Uhuru, in a joint press conference after a two-hour meeting at State House.

He assured that Kenya supports Tanzania not only as a neighbour but as countries that embraces brotherhood.

Among the issues agreed upon yesterday was re-energising the Joint Commission of Cooperation, with ministers from both countries directed to meet regularly to strengthen unity and streamline the business environment.

“The ministers should ensure that there is conducive business environment and cultures that are beneficial to both countries,” Uhuru said.

They also deliberated on transport and communication, where they agreed to ensure ease of movement, including fast-tracking construction of the Malindi Lungalunga road up to Bagamoyo.

There is also intent to resume and ease movement on Lake Victoria to serve Jinja to Kisumu to Mwanza and Bukoba routes, which will enhance business for residents of both countries.

On security, the two leaders pledged to cooperate in the fight against terrorism to ensure safety of Kenyans and Tanzanians.

Modalities towards constructing a gas pipeline between Mombasa and Dar es Salaam was also discussed, an investment aimed at reducing electricity costs and allowing industries to get environmentally friendly energy.

“Kenya is keen on importing natural gas from Tanzania to run our industries.

Natural gas is a clean energy source, which will contribute to the mitigation of greenhouse gas emissions and is in line with our commitment to protect our environment,” said Uhuru.

Social integration

The two countries are also to boost social integration, culture and national heritage of the people.

“We are happy as we welcome you because we see you as our sister. Both countries are one and this time we will ensure that our relations continue to thrive.

I assure that we will continue to work together until we meet obligations, given to us by our citizens – good relations, neighbourhood and improved economy…

Welcome to Kenya, welcome home I will soon honour your invite to visit Tanzania,” Uhuru added.

The Tanzanian leader said that from the friendship between the two countries acquired over time, there has been economic growth over the years.

For instance, she said she informed Uhuru that globally Kenya holds the fifth position in terms of investments in Tanzania but is first in the region.

She said in the last five years, business between the two countries has been low and is only worth $450 million but will now grow.

To further boost business, President Suluhu said the two countries will address non-tax issues that arise.

She announced new measures geared towards curbing the spread of Covid-19, a departure from her predecessor.

She stated the need for Health ministers from both countries to urgently deliberate on modalities to cross the border, in light of the disease.

And as Tanzania celebrates its 60th year of independence, she said that she had officially invited Uhuru as the guest of honour.

“…Hayo ndio tumezungumza na kakangu na mimi na ujumbe wangu tunajihisi tukiwa nyumbani (those are some of the things we have deliberated on with my brother, Uhuru … together with my delegation, we feel at home,” she concluded her speech.

Kenya and Tanzania are emerging from strained relations marred by diplomatic tiffs specifically triggered by cross border Covid-19 containment measures that had been reached by the East African Community Heads of State. 

Today, President Suluhu is expected to address a joint sitting of Kenya’s Parliament, among other engagements in her tight schedule.

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