NAIROBI, Kenya Apr 10 – Kenya and Tanzania have committed to strengthen ties after months of strained relations, fuelled by border closures during the COVID-19 lockdown.
The assurance was given Saturday when President Uhuru Kenyatta dispatched Sports Cabinet Secretary Amina Mohammed to deliver a message to new Tanzania President Suluhu Hassan who took over from John Pombe Magufuli who died last month.
Ambassador Mohammed who was accompanied by Kenya’s High Commissioner to Tanzania Dan Kazungu during the meeting in Tanzania’s State House in Dar es Salaam.
“President Suluhu has committed to continue with what the late President John Magufuli started that of ensuring that both nations relate harmoniously,” read part of the communique which was issued by Tanzania’s Chief Spokesperson Gerson Msigwa.
During the meeting, President Suluhu re-affirmed that her administration was ready and willing to work closely with Kenya with a view of bolstering both nations’ trade ties and mutual interest.
“To ensure the commitment is set in motion, President Suluhu has directed Ministers who form the Joint Permanent Commission from both Tanzania and Kenya to meet and agree on different issues that will ensure the ties are strengthened,” Msigwa said.
President Kenyatta issued an invitation to President Suluhu to visit Kenya where the two would engage in further bilateral talks.
The meeting is the clearest indication yet that President Suluhu who since assuming office in March, 2021 has been committal in mending diplomatic ties with neighboring countries and those abroad purposely to change the country’s foreign policy.
Kenya and Tanzania were in January 2021 embroiled in a diplomatic row over the handling of the latter’s COVID-19 pandemic.
The diplomatic spat between the two nations erupted soon after the outbreak of the pandemic in East Africa, when Kenya blocked Tanzanian truck drivers from entering the country, fearing they would spread the disease.
Consequently, Tanzania banned Kenya’s national carrier Kenya Airways from entering its country’s airspace in what Magufuli termed as a reciprocal action after Kenya included Tanzania in a list of countries whose nationals would not be permitted to enter Kenya when commercial flights resumed on 1 August.
President Magufuli’s refusal to impose lockdowns or social distancing measures, and to halt the release of figures on infections since late April 2020, made him a regional outlier and caused concern among Tanzania’s neighbours and the World Health Organization.
Magufuli declared Tanzania free of coronavirus in June, thanking God and the prayers of citizens for defeating the disease.
President Suluhu has since formed a COVID-19 taskforce to advise her government, saying they would canvass global opinion on the pandemic and make recommendations about “remedies” and policies.
“It is not proper to ignore it. We cannot reject or accept it without any evidence from research,” Hassan told her newly-appointed Permanent Secretaries at a swearing-in ceremony in Dar es Salaam on Tuesday.