Magufuli and Uhuru in deal to build roads
Tanzania and Kenya have agreed on a time line to start the construction of two link roads meant to improve the movement of goods and people between the two countries.
The deal is the major decoration on the meeting between President John Magufuli and his host, President Uhuru Kenyatta, in Nairobi, whose joint address to journalists was made in Kiswahili.
The agreement means that the two countries will now proceed to discuss the final details that will see the Africa Development Bank (AfDB) finance the construction of the Bagamoyo-Malindi highway, and the road through Isebania border in Migori County to Tanzania.
“We have a plan to ensure that we speed up the construction of the road from Bagamoyo to Malindi and the other one through Isebania to open up the western region to enable our people to travel in a way that is safe and affordable,” President Kenyatta told a joint news conference at State House on Monday.
The Bagamoyo-Malindi highway has been on the cards since 2014, when negotiations between the two countries with the AfDB began.
But the road, which is 680km long and meant to improve connectivity between the two countries, was hampered by Tanzania’s reluctance to compensate protesting communities that have to be relocated.
Dr Magufuli was visiting Nairobi for the first time since his election last year, a move that had elicited suspicions that the new Tanzanian leader was ignoring regional integration for domestic affairs.
On Monday, he dismissed the suspicions, first arguing that Tanzania considered Kenya as “our number one partner” then revealing he is always in touch with President Kenyatta by telephone.
“We call each other on many issues, but because these phone calls don’t get seen in public, some people don’t know,” said the Tanzanian leader.
But even in that declaration, Dr Magufuli, whose reign has been punctuated with a purge on corruption, remained guarded in his speech all through, choosing instead to describe his domestic policy.
“Our relations go back a long way, not just because we were both colonised by the British but because out nationals are also related. We are like siblings,” he argued.
PURGE ON CORRUPTION
“We have been getting in touch often with the President, through the phone. We call each other on many issues, but because these phone calls don’t get seen in public, some people don’t know. I want you to know from today that we talk a lot with President Uhuru Kenyatta.”
But even in that declaration, Dr Magufuli whose reign has been punctuated with a purge on corruption remained guarded in his speech, choosing instead to describe his domestic policy.
“I have explained the reality in Tanzania that we are developing. We are working towards ensuring our country moves forward. We want Tanzanians to pay taxes, we are striving to defeat corruption, and we are working hard to ensure Tanzanians and Tanzania develop,” he argued.
“I believe that if we go with this pace, we can reach at a level where we can say we are taking the country to a better place. We have a lot to learn from each other, between Kenya and Tanzania.”
He had been expected to comment on Kenya’s nomination of Foreign Affairs CS Amina Mohamed to be Chair of the AU Commission.
He did not, although sources said his Foreign Minister Augustine Mahiga will come back here this month on the same.
He was expected to say something about whether Tanzania will sign the Economic Partnership Agreement with the European Union, and which would guarantee East Africa privileged access to European Markets. He did not.
And as countries clamour to pull out of the International Criminal Court, the Tanzanian leader didn’t say a thing either.
During the meetings, the two leaders agreed to revive work on the Joint Commission for Cooperation. First signed in 1988 between then Presidents Ali Hassan Mwinyi and Daniel Moi, the two countries had largely ignored following up on creating systems that would improve trade between them.
In 2009, Kenya’s then Vice President Kalonzo Musyoka and his Tanzanian counterpart Ali Zhein had vowed to revive it. They did not.
On Monday, the two Presidents said they had instructed their ministers of Foreign Affairs to try again.