, DAR ES SALAAM, Jul 17 – President Mwai Kibaki has reaffirmed Kenya’s unwavering commitment to the realisation of a fully integrated East African region based on the special relations she enjoys with the republic of Tanzania and other countries in the region.
Speaking during an official luncheon hosted by his host President Jakaya Kikwete to mark the start of a two day official visit in Tanzania, President Kibaki pointed out that the two countries enjoyed special and longstanding relations dating back to colonial times.
"Our bilateral, ties go back many centuries and are founded on a truly shared history, culture and a common language. Above all, our countries share a common vision for the prosperity of East Africa and its people. When we talk of a special relationship, we recall that young Tanganyika under visionary leadership of Mwalimu Julius Nyerere actually preferred to delay the attainment of her own independence in order to wait for the brotherly people of Kenya to break themselves from the yoke of colonial bondage," President Kibaki said.
President Kibaki observed that by delaying her independence, the then young Republic of Tanzania expressed and demonstrated a selfless desire for the attainment of the freedom of her neighbour and their welfare too.
The Head of State recounted the eventful road that the neighbouring States have gone through under auspices of the East African Community.
He noted that Kenya, Uganda and Tanzania were able to pursue the dream of integration long before other regions and achieved several feats including a common currency, common railways and harbours, a common education system as well as a single air transport service.
"As I stand here today, I reflect on the road that we have travelled together under the auspices of the East African Community. We recall that Kenya, Tanzania and Uganda were able to see and pursue the dream of integration long before others," the President observed.
He asserted that the community’s potential has been boosted with the incorporation of Rwanda and Burundi into the East African Community adding that such ties would boost closer interaction of citizens of member countries.
"The accession of Rwanda and Burundi to East African Community has translated into an enlarged entity and a wider market for the benefit of all our people. The next logical step will be the development of a truly regional market that encourages cross-border investments and capital movement," remarked the President.
The Head of State noted that the EAC member countries have learned from the mistakes leading the collapse of community adding that integration should be anchored on collaboration and cooperation for shared prosperity.
The President said: "It is therefore in this spirit of shared prosperity that I came to Tanzania, inspired by what we have done together in the past to build our community, and driven by what we can achieve in the future for the mutual benefit of all East Africans."
The Head of State thanked the government and People of Tanzania for standing with Kenya during difficult times such as the post election hostilities and crippling food shortage.
"Equally important, when Kenya was going through a crippling food shortage, Tanzania made available for purchase by Kenya over 4,000 tonnes of white maize. This went along way in augmenting our efforts to avert a looming food security disaster. We are grateful for this brotherly gesture of solidarity," he said.
President Kibaki further noted that development and prosperity were dependent on peace and stability and commended Tanzania for playing a vital role in various regional peace initiatives.
"Tanzania was particularly instrumental in the Burundi peace initiative. It is the peace the Burundi enjoys now that has enabled that country to become a happy member of the east African Community," said the President.
He thanked President Kikwete for his pivotal role in the resolving the post election differences in Kenya in his then capacity as the African Union Chairperson and also expressed gratitude to former President Benjamin Mkapa and the people of Tanzania for their support during the difficult period.
President Kibaki observed: "That Tanzania has since its independence made great strides in socio-economic and political development is a matter of pride for the entire sub-region. We acknowledge that, Tanzania has been able to maintain national stability and consolidate economic reforms that have helped boost our bilateral relations."
The President noted that the spirit of harnessing peace in the East African region could be used as basis of resolving the longstanding Somalia conflict in order to address the twin challenges of extremist insurgency and piracy off the Somalia coastline.
"Piracy has negatively affected all our economies in the region. It is therefore important that we join the African Union and the international community in looking for a lasting solution to the problem in Somalia," the Head of State said.
With regard to commerce and trade, President Kibaki noted that Tanzania was the third largest export destination for Kenya’s goods and called for expansion of bilateral relations to cover varied issues.
He urged businessmen to take advantage of existing opportunities and move aggressively into markets of both countries.
"I would like to urge Tanzanian business people to take advantage of the available opportunities in Kenya and move aggressively into that market. It is equally encouraging to know that Kenyans are willing to expand their investment in Tanzania to a level that brings about closer integration of the two economies. In this connection, I thank the Government of Tanzania for putting in place a conducive environment that has made continued growth of trade between our two peoples possible."
President Kibaki expressed trust that the two countries would collaborate to strengthen the role of the Nairobi-based United Nations Environmental Programme (UNEP) during the forth-coming Copenhagen Climate Change Summit later in the year.
He reaffirmed, It is important that we continuously develop a common approach to issues such as United Nations reform, trade negotiations under the auspices of the World Trade Organization, climate change, and international environmental governance. This will strengthen our prosperity for all member countries.