November 24th 2017

World / East Africa

Kenya, Tanzania joint commission spells end for ‘coalition of the willing’

The revival of the commission, whose mandate overlaps EAC policy-making on trade, immigration and investment, was seen as a concession by Kenya which years back had threatened to implement closer integration with Rwanda and Uganda as Tanzania questioned some of EAC’s protocols.

By Free Press Reporternewsdesk@kenyafreepress.comTuesday, 01 Nov 2016 08:45 EAT

Presidents Uhuru Kenyatta and John Magufuli address the media at State House, Nairobi, yesterday. (Photo: Courtesy/President Uhuru's Facebook page).

Tanzania’s president John Pombe Magufuli has paid homage to Kenya’s investment in his country. Speaking in Nairobi where he is on a two-day state visit, President Magufuli said Kenya was the largest African investment source for Tanzania, hence the need for the two states to cooperate closely on trade and other bilateral issues.

“Kenya is our number one partner,” the president said. He also downplayed perceptions that his relations with President Uhuru Kenyatta were cold. “We speak often with President Kenyatta on the phone, but because phone calls don’t always get seen in public, some people don’t know. Today, I want to say that we have always been in touch,” he said at a joint press conference with his host at State House, Nairobi.

The two sides announced the revival of the Kenya-Tanzania Joint Commission for Cooperation to improve relations and dispute resolution between the two countries. They also directed their respective foreign ministers to ensure the commission meets before the end of the year to look into all issues on which the two countries diverge.

The revival of the commission, whose mandate will overlap the policy-making of the East African Community on trade, immigration and investment, was seen by experts as a concession by Kenya which for years had threatened to implement closer integration with Rwanda and Uganda as Tanzania called to questions some of EAC’s protocols. The 'coalition of the willing', as the Kenya, Uganda and Rwanda alliance was called, aimed to isolate Tanzania which the three countries considered a laggard in implementing EAC policies.

Tanzania has become a more forceful player in the region under President Magufuli, who has instituted a tough anti-corruption regime back home but also reneged on some open access agreements that Tanzania had committed to paper. In March, for example, to Kenya government officials including a cabinet minister had their passports seized by Tanzanian officials when they visited the Tanga Port the Kenyans were on a mission, the Tanzanians claimed, to discredit the Port as they sought to persuade Uganda against using the Port for its oil exports, after the country had chosen a route through Tanzania over the one linking to Mombasa Port.

The new agreement between Kenya and Tanzania yesterday will be keenly watched by Uganda and Rwanda which already provide full access to Kenyan goods, investment and labour. The two countries are, however, much smaller economies and lack the natural resources that Kenyan firms scout for in Tanzania. Agreements under the Kenya-Tanzania Joint Commission could overwrite some EAC policies that Tanzania has rejected, including abolition of work permits and the treatment of East African students in each other's universities as national students.

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