The tiff between Kenya and Tanzania is seemingly deflated- for now- after President Uhuru Kenyatta honoured an invitation by his Tanzanian counterpart on Friday.
Kenyatta is in Tanzania for a two-day private visit on a special invitation by President John Pombe Magufuli.
He is visiting Magufuli’s rural hometown Chato in the northwestern region of Geita.
Unity for East Africans to develop a prosperous region
Kenyatta who spoke to thousands of Chato town residents said through open trade and enhanced people-to-people interactions, the region will be able to deal with the challenges facing its people including poverty.
“We must aim to remove all barriers that hinder the free movement of our people across our borders,” President Kenyatta said.
He added that East Africans are one people with a shared heritage and a common destiny calling on them to unite in order to develop a prosperous region.
Kenyatta cautioned political leaders against making inflammatory remarks saying no one will be allowed to sow seeds of division among East Africans.
This was in reference to Starehe MP Charles Kanyi Njagua who in early June said foreigners who have taken over businesses at Gikomba and Nyamakima should be flushed out of the country.
In a video recording that was shared online, Njagua accused the Chinese, Tanzanians and Ugandans of engaging in small businesses which should be the preserve of locals.
He at the time issued a 24-hour ultimatum for the foreigners to leave failure to which they would be forcibly evicted.
To assuage the Tanzanians, Kenyatta said, “How can you tell a Tanzanian not to visit Kenya. You cannot deny Kenyans a chance to do business in Tanzania.”
Magufuli said Kenyans own 504 companies in his country worth USD 1.7 billion compared to 24 Tanzanian companies in Kenya worth USD 189 million.
“According to the Kenya Tourism Board, in 2018, Tanzanian tourists visiting Kenya were 222,216 accounting for 10 per cent of the over 2 million visitors who visited the country,” said Magufuli.
Magufuli added that Tanzania is Kenya’s second-largest tourists’ source market after the United States of America.
He hailed Kenyan companies saying they provide over 50,000 direct jobs to Tanzanians. Magufuli called for concerted efforts by both countries to promote trade, implementation of regional infrastructure and people-to-people interactions.
Tanzania hindering East Africa’s integration
Tanzania is consistently being seen as a hindrance to the formation of an EAC trading bloc with requests for ‘time to consult’ coming up often during discussions.
These timeouts have cost Kenya on many occasions with some Kenyans questioning the unappreciated olive branch extensions.
For instance, when the EAC-EU deal came to signing, Tanzanian delegates requested time to “consult” delaying implementation of duty-free quota-free status for Kenya. All EAC states except Tanzania signed the economic partnership agreement between the bloc and the European Union.
While tourism remains a big deal for Kenya, it seems like Tanzania is unwilling to tango.
To ease cross-border tourism, Kenya, Rwanda and Uganda launched a single tourist visa in 2014 and but Tanzania was left behind.
In Kenya, Tanzanian tour operators are allowed to access all towns in Kenya while their Kenyan counterparts are only allowed access to certain towns in Tanzania.
Actions betraying Tanzania-Kenya friendship
In October 2017, Tanzania’s livestock ministry raised a storm after burning live chicks worth millions of shillings.
The 6,400 chicks from Kenya valued at TShs12 million were transported into Tanzania through the Namanga border.
At the time, Tanzanian authorities argued that burning the chicks could help avoid a potential disease outbreak.
Despite the chicks being destroyed, the government never issued a statement showing they were sick necessitating the action.
In February 2018, Tanzania once again confiscated and burnt another consignment of chicks from Kenya.
Tanzania’s Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Livestock, Maria Mashingo, said that the 5,000 one-day-old chicks were not properly documented necessitating the action.
In November 2017, Magufuli said he supported the auctioning of over 1000 cattle belonging to Kenyan pastoralists.
The animals had allegedly trespassed into Tanzania where Magufuli accused pastoral communities from neighbouring countries of making Tanzania a grazing field.
They were auctioned in October after the Kenyan herders failed to pay the Tshs500 million (KShs23 million) as a fine before their release.
Interestingly, it is in the same month that Tanzania seized more than 10,000 head of cattle from Uganda and Rwanda.
Tanzania’s livestock and fisheries minister, Luhaga Mpina, said the cattle would be auctioned.