08-07-2019 by Freddie del Curatolo
An unofficial visit, but much more important than a visit to the State, with the observance of every protocol and calibrated words on live television.
The trip of President Uhuru Kenyatta of Kenya to Tanzania to meet his Tanzanian counterpart John Pombe Magufuli, surprised not only the public opinion of the two countries, but the political environment of the whole of East Africa.
Between the two neighboring countries for years has not been running very good blood, many have been the diatribes, the steepness on a commercial level (the Kenyan increase in taxes on flour from Tanzania, in response to duties of 25% on Kenyan pastries and oils) and bans (in tourism, a sector that touches us closely, for example, the obstacles for those who want to do safari in Kenya and Tanzania at the same time) up to the issue of maritime hubs to get crude oil from Uganda and South Sudan, with the Tanzanian government that several times tried to blow up the bank built by Kenya on the axis LAPPSET with the port of Lamu as a terminal, proposing a less convenient passage over Lake Victoria and the implementation of the port of Tanga.
Seeing the two Heads of State strolling peacefully hand in hand and Kenyatta agreeing to spend a day in the home village of Magufuli, Chato, meet the mother of the Tanzanian leader hospitalized and change his plans to return to stay one night and "eat delicious fish", is certainly a new event as far as the two neighbouring countries are concerned.
"We wanted to meet as friends, unofficially - explained Kenyatta - so as to break the ice in view of upcoming official engagements. Surely soon I will return the visit hosting Magufuli at my house and my wife will cook for him some excellent githeri.
The Tanzanian President, known for his intransigence and his iron character, seemed very relaxed.
"Kenyatta, with whom there was already a good friendship years ago, when he was a minister - said Magufuli - he only had to stay with us for one day and instead decided to stay here, which made me very happy.
Now our main commitment will be to make the economies of our countries work together, to eliminate the problems of the Kenyans and Tanzanians, in a nutshell to do business together".
Tanzania has long been considered a problematic member of the East African Community, always ready to accuse Kenya and Uganda of wanting to exploit its resources.
During the talks for the start of work on the coastal highway that will connect Bagamoyo to Malindi, Magufuli did not send them to say, declaring that it would be difficult to work together with a country that makes corruption its modus operandi.
In the short interview given after this meeting, Magufuli now stresses the importance of creating an economic bloc in East Africa, so as to have strong bargaining power with commercial giants of the caliber of China and India.
The visit did not touch on political issues and did not dwell on the details of the cross-border problems, rather it also seemed a diplomatic way to silence xenophobic polemics relaunched in Kenya by a member of parliament, the former singer Charles Njagua called "Jaguar", who was sentenced to four days in prison plus a fine for expressing judgments considered racist in the aftermath of the football match between the national teams of the two states at the continental championships that are being played in Egypt. The populist Njagua had publicly asked the Tanzanians not to come to Kenya anymore to do business, stealing the work from the Kenyans.
Kenyatta, without referring to Mr Njagua by name, defeated this way of doing politics: "Someone sees only his native village, has never left it and thinks that beyond there is the end of the world. As a result, they talk in vain about things that they do not know and that do not concern them. How can you tell a Tanzanian not to come and do business in Kenya?"
Magufuli confirmed the possible future change of course between the two countries: "Tanzanians can go to Kenya and benefit from their business as well as bring prosperity".
Kenyatta concluded his speech in the native village of the Tanzanian President in the most melodious of hypotheses: "The Lord told us that you can choose a friend, but you can not choose a neighbor. A neighbor is given by God. And there is nothing more joyful than having a neighbor given by God who is also a friend".
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