Tanzanian President Samia Suluhu yesterday rallied MPs to support her bid with President Uhuru Kenyatta to forge closer bonds between the two countries.
In a charismatic 45-minute long speech peppered with good-nature jabs at Kenyans, particularly MPs, she expressed her optimism that her talks with the host, President Kenyatta, was a new beginning for the two neighbours.
“My plea to you is to ask you to help us nurture our good relationship. I say this knowing that you are the representatives of the people and that is the voice of the people of Kenya. You are responsible for legislating and advising the government on policy direction and guiding your citizens,” President Suluhu told MPs.
She argued, “You play a key role in promoting cooperation between our two countries. You have a great deal of power to determine the speed of our cooperation, whether it is quick or inconsistent with the type of laws you will formulate and the policies you will adopt.?”
She told a joint sitting of the National Assembly and Senate that Tanzania and Kenya will deliberately work to keep their communication channels open to prevent a breakdown of relations.
During her tenure, Suluhu said, she will ensure Kenya remains a brother, neighbour and strategic partner.
The address in Parliament was the last item on Suluhu’s busy schedule, crowning her two-day tour of duty, marked with back to back talks with Kenyan leaders and business people.
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Suluhu said her visit was “to straighten what had become crooked and tighten what had become loose.”
“I am so happy to get this opportunity at the start of my tenure. Your decision to give me this opportunity is an indication of the value of the relationship between our two countries,” she told Parliament.
She added, “We have had good discussions which awaken optimism about greater cooperation between our countries in coming days. There was no difficulty or any friction in reaching an agreement. What became clear is that our countries agree on more than we disagree on.”
On past frosty relations, Suluhu told the lawmakers, the disagreements and differences were due to perspective.
“Even the little that we disagree on has no foundation but a difference in opinion between people.”
Suluhu said a breakdown in communication between Nairobi and Dodoma due to infrequent meetings festered negative perceptions.
“To remove those negative perceptions we have agreed to create a tradition of meeting often. Brothers and neighbours who meet frequently, build a closer relationship than those who don’t meet,” she said.
President Suluhu said her country is open to Kenyan businesses and her government will address concerns over investment difficulties.
The leading sectors of investment from Kenya are manufacturing, transport, agriculture, banking, services, construction, human resources, mining, tourism and natural resources.
“My purpose for coming to Kenya is to talk to you and see how Tanzanians can do better in Kenya,” she said.
She said the meeting between Kenya and Tanzania will have implications on the coastal strip from Lamu to Shimoni, near the border with Tanzania.
The two countries have agreed on joint infrastructure projects such as the construction of a 450-kilometre highway from Lamu to Dar es Salaam through Mombasa, Tanga and Baga Moyo.
The project is part of the East Africa Community (EAC) to develop inter-country infrastructure on the coastal corridor.
“We are rushing to complete our part from Pangani to Bagamoyo and we have gotten funding from the African Development Bank,” she said.
Suluhu said President Uhuru had assured her that Kenya was working earnestly to secure funding for the Kenyan part of the project.
The second road that the two leaders discussed will run from Voi to Arusha. The 260km highway will pass through Holili and Taveta.
The project is part of the Arusha – Namanga – Athi River corridor which was started in 2012 and is under construction in two phases.
Other joint projects are one-stop border points at Namanga and Holili/Taveta.
“We are working to complete other OSBP at Lunga Lunga, Horohoro and Sirare/Isebania. The fourth project is the Isinya to Singida High Voltage line transport 400kilovolts of electricity,” she said.
Mama Suluhu added, “In Tanzania that entails the constructions of transmission lines from Singida to Namanga, expansion of the power substation at Singida and construction of new substations in Arusha and Legumur.
On the Kenyan side, she said it will involve the construction of high voltage lines from Isinya substations to Namanga to join the Tanzanian line.
The project will be funded by the African Development Bank (AFDB) and Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA), she said.
Gas pipeline from Dar es Salam to Mombasa.
“Our government is committing to these projects because we are confident that our partnership is strong and will last,” she said.
“Anyone who hopes to bring strife between us should know that Tanzania and Kenya will be partners through thick and thin,” she said.
Suluhu urged the MPs to push the Executive to uphold their mutual agreements saying it was time that leaders became the bridges bringing their people together, rather than barriers.
“This trip has opened many doors. Please support us in implementation,” she told MPs.
Recently elected as Chairperson of Tanzania’s ruling party, Chama Cha Mapinduzi (CCM), she said yesterday Tanzania would partner with other countries to combat the coronavirus pandemic.
A disjointed effort to combat the virus led to bottlenecks and entry point crisis further drove a wedge between the two countries.
But Suluhu said going forward they had agreed on a unitary approach. “Tanzania is not an Island. We have started to reflect on our approach to fighting Covid-19. We will co-operate with Kenya and our neighbours. The efforts (to fight the pandemic) should bring us together and not divide us,” she said.
Suluhu’s appeal to Parliament and the locus of her two days state visit to Kenya was for cooperation between Nairobi and Dodoma and an end to trade barriers.
She said there was no Kenya without Tanzania, and neither could Tanzania flourish without Kenya.
“We depend on each other in every situation. Whether it is in joy or distress, we depend on each other. When there is a drought in Tanzania, famine strikes Kenya. If industrial production stops in Kenya, goods are scarce in Tanzania,” she said.