Inside the Kenya, Tanzania uneasy ties

Friday, March 19th, 2021 00:00 |
President Uhuru Kenyatta with John Magufuli during the launch of Nairobi Southern By Pass in November 2016. Photo/PD/File

The relationship between Tanzania’s late President John Magufuli and Kenya could be described as a love-hate affair, going by sentiments and diplomatic tiffs encountered during his reign.

When Magufuli was elected President in 2015, he never hid his dislike on how Kenya was priding itself as the ‘big boy’ among the East African countries.

Two years later, after the election of President Uhuru Kenyatta and his Deputy William Ruto into office, State House Nairobi sent an invite to State House Tanzania inviting Magufuli for the inauguration.

President Magufuli confirmed attendance, but at the last minute, he dispatched his vice-president Samia Suluhu Hassan, to represent him at the fete.

“The government is informing the public that President Dr John Pombe Magufuli would be joining other Heads of State for the swearing-in ceremony of His Excellency Uhuru Kenyatta as the president of the Republic of Kenya for his second term,” read an official reply from the government of Tanzania.

 The snubbing of 2017 inauguration seemed to have not gone down well with his  Kenyan counterpart.

Uhuru returned the favour by snubbing Magufuli’s inauguration last year when he sent the East African Community Cabinet Secretary Adan Mohamed to represent him in Dar-es-Saalam.

On matters trade, relations got off to a rocky start early in Magufuli’s term when he disrupted Kenya’s stewardship role in the “coalition of the willing.” 

He did so by working with Uganda’s President Yoweri Museveni to re-route Uganda’s planned oil pipeline through Tanzania after Kenya appeared to have secured it.

Interestingly, diplomatic relations were brought to boiling point during negotiations to finalise a trade deal between the European Union and the East African Community.

Kenya signed the final agreement but Tanzania flatly refused citing national interest  and even though the trade and tourism exchange between Tanzania and Kenya make a big contribution to the two economies.

According to Magufuli, there are 504 Kenyan-owned companies in Tanzania, valued at (Sh170 billion) which offer 50,000 Tanzanians jobs.

However, there is only a paltry 24 Tanzanian companies in Kenya valued at Sh19 billion.

Before the coronavirus pandemic outbreak, at least 10 per cent of the more than two million tourists to Kenya were Tanzanians, totalling 222,216 visitors, which is the second largest group after American tourists. 

However, the biggest tiff between the neighbouring countries, though, was experienced just two months after Kenya recorded its first case of Covid-19, Nairobi closed its border with Tanzania in an attempt to control the spread of the virus.

Nairobi at the time placed Tanzania on the red list of nations with high risk of Covid-19, a move that forced Kenya to temporarily close its borders with Tanzania and impose tough health protocols for travellers from Dar.

However, a few days later, Dar es Saalam responded by blocking Air Kenya Express, Fly540 and Safarilink Aviation from flying into its territory.

“Tanzania has noted its exclusion in the list of countries whose people will be allowed to travel into Kenya,” Tanzania’s Hamza Johari said.

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