Tanzanian President Samia Suluhu Hassan arrived in Kenya on Tuesday for a two-day trip to unfreeze relations between neighbors after years of disputes over trade and border issues.
Hassan hopes to renew the all-important alliance with Nairobi, which was strained during the tenure of his predecessor, John Magufuli, who died suddenly in March.
Once close allies in the regional East African Community (EAC), Tanzania’s participation in the bloc waned under Magufuli due to economic rivalry and allegations of unfair trade practices.
Hassan, 61, landed in the capital Nairobi and was greeted by two ministers before heading to the presidency, where she inspected an honor guard and received a 21-shot salute.
He then held talks with President Uhuru Kenyatta.
“Your visit has given us the opportunity to renew our relationships,” Kenyatta told a joint news conference with Hassan.
Kenya will work with Tanzania to ensure that the unity of nations “continues to grow and strengthen for the benefit of our people,” he added.
The two leaders announced the signing of an agreement for the transportation of liquefied petroleum gas from the port city of Mombasa to Dar es Salaam, the economic capital of Tanzania.
Such agreements were irregular under Magufuli, who was seen as favoring other regional trading blocs.
– Hassan’s New Approach –
Nairobi is the largest investor in Tanzania from the six-nation EAC bloc and the fifth largest on the continent.
Nicknamed the “Bulldozer” for his uncompromising leadership style, Magufuli in 2016 refused to be part of Kenya’s diesel-powered standard-gauge railway project, choosing instead to reveal a plan to build an electric railway.
That same year it refused to invest in a Nairobi-led road project to link Kenya with Ethiopia, Uganda and South Sudan.
A series of rows followed in 2017 and 2018 when Tanzania burned more than 11,000 chickens imported from Kenya alive and seized hundreds of cattle that had crossed the porous border.
Disagreements over border closures and flight bans during the Covid-19 pandemic also increased tensions.
“We have agreed that our health ministers draw up a plan to facilitate border crossings and controls to speed up service delivery,” Hassan said.
The visit, nearly five years since Magufuli arrived in Kenya, comes as Hassan departs from the policies of his autocratic predecessor.
On Monday it announced a series of Covid-related restrictions for travelers arriving in Tanzania. Magufuli long denied the presence of the disease in the country, saying that prayer had saved the nation from the disease.
This is Hassan’s second visit abroad since he took office.
He will attend a state dinner on Tuesday evening and address a joint session of Parliament on Wednesday.