Suluhu and Uhuru cordiality points to a great future
By Jacob Oketch
President of the United Republic of Tanzania Suluhu Hassan’s state visit to Kenya is one of the most startling turnaround of relations between neighbouring nations, coming at a time the region, as well as the whole world is grappling with the debilitating effects of the coronavirus pandemic. It has been a significant visit in several ways.
Up until she became the president, the relations between Kenya and Tanzania have been at its lowest ebb.
Indeed, from the time the late Dr John Pombe Magufuli came to power, the relations between Kenya and Tanzania went south and it never improved until his demise. The most affected sector in this tiff-was trade.
President Suluhu Hassan has-in just one visit to Kenya restored the cordial relationship between Kenya and Tanzania and done even more. She revealed that her visit has engineered a lot of business deals for the Tanzania people and urged them to invest more in Kenya.
Infact, both Presidents-Suluhu and Uhuru committed to enhance the process of business engagements-to do away with tariffs and ease trade as much as possible.
Kenya and Tanzania have a very vibrant cultural scene but the thawed relations for the past six years has hindered honest and freer cultural exchange between the two nations.
President Suluhu’s visit has ensured that the cultural component of the good relations between the two nations is back on the table.
There is the unique way in which the taarab music strands communities along the coast-that come from both Kenya and Tanzania.
These are some of the aspects of culture that continue to bolster the relations of the two nations.
President Suluhu Hassan’s address to the joint session of parliament could have easily been one of her most gracious moments in this visit. Her glowing tribute to President Uhuru Kenyatta for the brotherhood he has accorded Tanzanians even when their leader Dr Magufuli passed on.
It must be remembered that President Suluhu is only the second head of state to address the joint session of parliament. The first one was retired president of Tanzania Dr Jakaya Kikwete.She pointed out that Tanzanians are very keen on how Kenyan parliament conducts business.
Perhaps what led to the thawed relations between Kenya and Tanzania can be traced back to the idea of competition.Both presidents expressed their commitment to partnership. Various big infrastructure projects that involve Kenya and Tanzania had slowed down and their completion was in doubt.
The pipeline project that the two leaders have committed to is a pointer to the direction things are going to take. The two leaders committed to expansion of the infrastructure connecting the two nations.Furthermore, President Suluhu pointed to the availability of resources in Tanzania, such as land and implored Kenyan investors to take advantage of such.
This visit comes at a time when things do not look very bright in the East African community. The Integration Process of the region is frustrated by the frosty relationships between member states. It is therefore very encouraging that Kenya and Tanzania are repairing their relations.
This rift has been affecting even the trade protocols that underpin the integration. Furthermore, it is only Kenya and Tanzania that are not landlocked in the region-hence they are the gateway.
The frosty relations between them would then end up affecting all the other states that depend on Kenya and Tanzania for their business transactions.
At a time when Somalia and Ethiopia are not stable, the rapprochement between Kenya and Tanzania couldn’t have come at a better time.
The Threat of Al Shabaab making inroads into the region has been exacerbated by the internal conflict in Ethiopia and the crisis occasioned by electoral stalemate in Somalia. As the big brothers of East Africa-Kenya and Tanzania had to step up to the plate and take their rightful place concerning security in the region.
President Suluhu’s state visit has radically reset the relations between the two countries in a way that will bolster trade and development. The two countries are rich in mineral resources. Tanzania seems to be ahead in this sector having started explorations earlier.
It is one of the areas where cooperation would yield positive results. President Suluhu’s open admiration of Kenya shows how much goodwill the Tanzanian leader has for Kenya.
Citing Nairobi as a major hub, she paid tribute to the reputation of the city. These are some of the things that those charged with the responsibility of steering urban tourism ought to leverage on.
President Sulu Hassan’s visit is a memorable one and will go down in history as having been responsible for the normalization of relations between Kenya and Tanzania. Itis with fervent hope that citizens of both countries look forward to a fruitful and prosperous coexistence in the spirit of the East African community.
The writer is the author of Aphorisms and Poems of Light