Suluhu: I’m here to streamline ties with Kenya

Wednesday, May 5th, 2021 00:00 |
Parliament in session

For the second day running, Tanzania’s President Samia Suluhu emphasised her commitment to forge a new working relationship with Kenya.

Addressing MPs and senators on the second and final day of her maiden State visit to Kenya, Suluhu said she was determined to streamline relationships between the countries.

“I am here to streamline things and bring to order to what had gone wrong,” President Suluhu told a joint sitting of Parliament.

The relationship between the two East African neighbours turned frosty during John Pombe Magufuli’s tenure, and Suluhu’s statement yesterday appeared to reassure Kenyans that things were changing for the better.

She said her visit to Kenya had opened many doors on economic and social cooperation and asked MPs to assist in implementing the policies. 

To further cement the relations between the two countries, the visiting head of state said she had invited President Uhuru Kenyatta to be the chief guest during her country’s 60th independence anniversary in December.

Democratic space

“This is my first visit to Kenya and it will not be the last,” Suluhu assured the lawmakers.

She told the cheering MPs how she enjoys listening to debates by Kenyan parliamentarians.

“Your Parliament really excites us; we enjoy the democratic space and the healthy debate.

Your Swahili is full of comedy, which in itself is entertaining enough,” President Suluhu told Parliament.

President Uhuru Kenyatta bids his Tanzanian counterpart Samia Suluhu Hassan bye at the Jomo Kenyatta International Airport, Nairobi, yesterday. Photo/PSCU

On tourism, Suluhu said it would be prudent for the two countries to engage each other rather than competing.

“It would be for the good of our two people to work together instead of battling over the little that we have,” said Suluhu.

She welcomed Kenyan investors to her country which, she said, despite enjoying vast deposits of minerals and vast land, lacked the capital to develop.

“Kenya, you have the capital, come to Tanzania and invest, we welcome you with open hands,” she told lawmakers.

She rushed at naysayers who see the two countries as competitors, terming them as hateful and short-sighted and promised to enhance friendship and cooperation between the two countries.

President Suluhu said the cooperation between the two countries is not optional but a must.

“Ushirikiano wetu sio wa hiari bali ni wa lazima,” she told the cheering MPs.

Tanzania, she said, neighbours eight countries but its only in Kenya that different communities share common boundaries.

Hata wanyama pori wetu ni ndugu na majirani… Kuna wanyama wanakuja kupata mimba Kenya wanazalia Tanzania (Even our wild animals are friends, some mate in Kenya and give birth in Tanzania),” she said to wild applause.

President Suluhu also talked of the vagaries of the Covid-19 pandemic and the effects it had caused.

She said a large part of her delegation was well conversant with life in Nairobi and even knew nyama choma joints but due to the effects of coronavirus, they could not enjoy themselves to the fullest.

President Suluhu said her visit to Kenya was her first official one since assuming power, saying that her brief trip to Uganda shortly after she was sworn into office was only meant to sign some treaties but not official.

She said that during her Kenyan visit she had held fruitful talks with President Kenyatta which awaken hopes and aspirations of people of the two countries.

“Our countries have coexisted well and what has been perceived by many as differences have been misunderstandings among our people,” she said.

The Tanzanian president becomes the third foreign head of state to address the bicameral Parliament and the second Tanzanian leader to do so. She has also made history as the first female Commander-in-Chief to address the August House.

Others who have addressed Parliament are former Tanzanian President Jakaya Kikwete in 2015 and former Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan in 2013. Both addresses were before Kenya’s 12th Parliament.

Reacting to President Suluhu’s address, MPs said her visit heralds a new dawn between the two countries.

National Assembly Transport Committee chairman David Pkosing said the infrastructure projects Tanzania was undertaking will open up economic activities in parts of Kenya along the borders.

Dagoretti North MP John Kiarie said the good relationship between the countries will help artists grow in terms of content and fan base, noting that musicians from the two countries have become the face of unity as politicians wrangle.  

Given hope

Nandi Senator Samson Cherargei hoped the renewed relationship between the countries will help open talks on prisoners repatriations.

Cherargei said Suluhu’s speech had given hope as she promised to address the differences that have been existing between the two countries.

Lunga Lunga MP Khatib Mwashetani said the Lunga Lunga/Singinda Road Suluhu said was under construction, will help improve the local economy and especially to people trading in the area.

Nominated Senator Rose Nyamunga said Suluhu’s speech touched on reconciliation and unity among the two neighbouring countries.

“She has talked as a mother who yearns for peace and reconciliation among her people,” said Nyamunga.

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