NAIROBI, Kenya, May 5- In what could mark the beginning of revived relations between Kenya and Tanzania, President Samia Suluhu addressed a joint sitting of Parliament using humour and metaphors that emphasized unity.
In her lyrical Swahili speech, President Suluhu stressed on the need for MPs to always stand firm and play their role in fostering unity between the two countries.
“We were delighted by your decision to launch Swahili standing orders. Your spoken Swahili is what makes me watch and listen to Kenya’s parliamentary proceedings. It is full of humor which on its own is free entertainment,” she said amid laughter from legislators.
The National Assembly launched the Kiswahili version of its Standing Orders on October 31, 2019.
President Suluhu used the global Masaai-Mara wildebeest migration from Tanzania to Kenya, to send her unit message home.
“Even our very own wild animals are brothers and neighbors. Some of them get pregnant in Kenya and give birth in Tanzania. If animals were expected to have citizenship, where would those ones belong to?” Suluhu posed sending MPs in stitches.
President Suluhu was in Kenya for a two day state visit in which she held bilateral talks with resident Uhuru Kenyatta mainly on trade and investment.
During a joint meeting with the Tanzanian business community in Kenya, the two leaders said they had resolved to ease the movement of people across the borders so as to foster integration.
Effectively, President Kenyatta said Tanzanians will no-longer require business visas or work permits.
Suluhu is hoping to renew the all-important alliance with Nairobi, which came under strain during the tenure of her predecessor John Magufuli, who died suddenly in March.
Once close allies in the regional East African Community (EAC), Tanzania’s participation in the bloc faded under Magufuli because of economic rivalry and accusations of unfair trade practices.
Suluhu, 61, landed in the capital, Nairobi Tuesday and was received by two ministers before heading to the presidency, where she inspected a guard of honour and received a 21-gun salute.
She then held talks with President Kenyatta.
“Your visit has given us the opportunity to renew our relations,” Kenyatta said at a joint press briefing with Hassan.
Kenya would work with Tanzania to ensure the nations’ unity “will continue to grow and be strengthened for the benefit of our people”, he added.
The two leaders announced the signing of a deal for the transportation of liquefied petroleum gas from the port city of Mombasa to Dar es Salaam, Tanzania’s economic capital.
Such deals were irregular under Magufuli, who was seen as favouring other regional trading blocs.
– Hassan’s new approach –
Nairobi is the main investor in Tanzania from the six-nation EAC bloc, and the fifth-largest from the continent.
Magufuli, nicknamed the “Bulldozer” for his uncompromising leadership style, in 2016 declined to be part of Kenya‘s diesel-powered Standard Gauge Railway project, choosing instead to unveil a plan to build an electric railway.
That same year he declined to invest in a Nairobi-driven road project to link Kenya with Ethiopia, Uganda and South Sudan.
A series of rows followed in 2017 and 2018 when Tanzania burned alive more than 11,000 chicks imported from Kenya, and seized hundreds of cattle that had wandered across the porous frontier.
Disagreements over border closures and flight bans during the Covid-19 pandemic also heightened tensions.
“We have agreed that our health ministers chart a plan to ease border crossing and checks to hasten service delivery,” said Suluhu.
The visit, almost five years since Magufuli came to Kenya, comes as Suluhu moves away from the policies of her autocratic predecessor.
On Monday she announced a series of Covid-related restrictions on travellers arriving in Tanzania. Magufuli long denied the presence of the disease in the country, saying prayer had spared the nation from the disease.
This is Suluhu’s second foreign visit since she took power.