NAIROBI, Kenya, Oct 31- President John Magufuli has dismissed assertions that the relationship between Kenya and Tanzania was strained as he kicks off his 2 days first visit to the country.
“Our people are one. In Kenya, we have the Maasai people as well as Tanzania, I doubt they care about the borders that exist between the two countries,” he said, during a press briefing at State House that came shortly after the two leaders held bilateral talks.
“Let it be known that we communicate with President Uhuru Kenyatta and that we are brothers. Our main goal is to put our people’s interests first.”
The two leaders used Swahili while making their respective remarks, a language used in both East African countries.
President Magufuli was wearing a light blue shirt and tie, a symbol of ‘peace’.
But it has not been all rosy between the two countries, though it now seems to be long gone and left for historians.
First, Tanzania cornered Kenya in the pipeline deal that saw Uganda and Rwanda prefer its route against that of the country.
Tanzania later failed to sign the Economic Partnership Agreement between the East African Community and the European Union, a landmark deal aimed at giving regional states, as a bloc, duty-free and quota-free market access into the EU.
In 2015, the two countries were involved in a trade row following a ban on Kenyan tour vans from accessing Tanzanian parks.
Kenya reciprocated by barring Dar buses from the Jomo Kenyatta International Airport.
Magufuli then failed to attend the Tokyo International Conference on African Development held in Nairobi which attracted Heads of State and government from across the continent raising questions over the status of relations between the two East African countries.
But on Monday, the Tanzania Head of State referred to Kenya as “brothers. I have come home and I welcome all Kenyans who want to invest in Tanzania. Let them start coming even today. We are together in helping grow our various countries. My tour was meant to cement the good relationship between the two countries.”
According to President Kenyatta, besides enhancing cooperation on trade, the two countries will also work together in major infrastructural projects and intelligence sharing to curb terror.
“For us to grow our economy and create more job opportunities for the youths, we have to work together,” he stated.
On security, the main focused will be enhancing intelligence sharing among both countries against the common threat of terror and also ensure Somalia and South Sudan stabilize from their current status.
On his part, President Magufuli said his coming to Kenya confirms that the relationship between the two countries is firm, while citing some of the major investments worth billions of shillings by Kenyan firms in Tanzania.
About 500 Kenyan firms are in Tanzania, creating job opportunities for more than half a million people according to President Magufuli.