THERE is finally a breakthrough in the Tanzania-Kenya border impasse after a high level talk between President John Magufuli and his counterpart Uhuru Kenyatta.
In the aftermath of the two Heads of State’ cordial dialogue, President Magufuli said yesterday they have directed responsible ministers to meet promptly to resolve the border crisis.
Thus, the Minister for Works, Transport and Communications, Engineer Isack Kamwelwe and his Kenyan counterpart will lead the talks in search for a solution on the recently imposed Covid-19 restrictions at border areas, said President Magufuli.
The meeting, added Dr Magufuli, will also involve regional commissioners whose territorial areas border Kenya, namely; Ms Anna Mghwira (Kilimanjaro RC), Mr Mrisho Gambo (Arusha RC) , Martine Shigella (Tanga RC), Mr Adam Malima (Mara RC) and John Mongella (Mwanza (RC).
Speaking in Singida Region yesterday on his way to Dodoma from Chato, Geita Region President Magufuli said Kenya leaders from provinces that border Tanzania will also be in attendance.
President Magufuli revealed that he received a call from President Uhuru Kenyatta during which they discussed about Covid-19 responses and the closure of the borders.
“The day before yesterday while in Chato I received a call from Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta and he spoke to me about issues to do with Covid-19. Today, President Kenyatta also called me. There are minor conflicts at border posts…but having held conversation with him I agreed with him,” said President Magufuli, who stressed on the long-standing brotherhood relations between the two neighbouring nations.
“Kenyans are our friends…there are Maasai people in Kenya there are Maasai in Tanzania, there are Luos in Kenya there are Luos in Tanzania, there are Kurya people in Kenya there are Kurya people in Tanzania...Covid-19 should never be the source of conflicts or misunderstandings,” he said.
Last Saturday, President Uhuru Kenyatta declared closure of its borders with Somalia and Tanzania because of increased cross-border infections of the coronavirus, disrupting flow of traffic, especially trucks carrying goods from Tanzania side to Kenya.
Kenya’s measures prompted a reaction from Tanzanian authorities with regional commissioners in Tanga, Kilimanjaro, Arusha and Mara also imposing restrictions at Holili, Tarakea, Namanga and Sirari borders as part of the measures to contain the spread of Coronavirus.
In his remarks, President Magufuli said it was illogical for Kenya and Tanzania to engage into unproductive tussles given the fact that the two countries have all along been trading partners.
“It’s impossible that all drivers are suffering from Covid-19 and it is also impossible for all trucks from Tanzania to be barred from crossing to Kenya and vice-versa. We want to exploit the benefit of borders by doing business with our colleagues from Kenya. Covid-19 should not bring about misunderstandings with our neighbours,” President Magufuli insisted.
He spoke briefly on the rationale behind his stance of not imposing lockdown in the country, saying life of every Tanzanian could be unbearable under such a strict decision. He said lockdown could have a devastating impact on the country’s economy.
“Our economy is more important than any other thing,” he said while reiterating his call upon Tanzanians to work hard to raise agricultural production and trade to improve their livelihood.
He asked the general public to continue taking precautionary measures against Covid-19, saying while the country witnessed a slowdown in Coronavirus cases, it remained imperative that people observed preventive measures to completely defeat the pandemic.
He congratulated Singida residents for their hard work spirit, something that had transformed the region.
Just three days after Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyata announced the closure of the country’s borders with Tanzania, Kilimanjaro, Tanga, Mara and Arusha regional authorities swiftly reciprocated with similar tough measures.
On different occasions, Regional Commissioners Ms Anna Mghwira of Kilimanjaro and Tanga’s Mr Martine Shigella directed law enforcers to ensure no Kenyan truck driver is allowed to cross into Tanzania and that goods going either side should be unloaded at the border.
Kenya and Tanzania remain key trading partners and the standoff will negatively impact export earnings. Tanzania is among Kenya’s top export destinations.
Tanzania exports from Kenya were valued at 338.83 million US dollars during 2018, according to the United Nations COMTRADE database on international trade.
Meanwhile, Kenya exports from Tanzania amounted to 293.7 million US dollars during 2018.