COVID-19 DISPUTE

Kenya, TZ in contact to resolve border row

Stay calm. Tanzanian officials also reaching out to Kenyan representatives to resolve dispute

In Summary

• President Kenyatta closed the borders with Tanzania to curb cases of imported Covid-19

• Some Tanzanian officials responded by announcing that they will not allow trucks ferrying cargo from Kenya into their country.

Trucks wait to be cleared in the no-man's land on the Kenya-Tanzania border crossing in Namanga.
NEIGHBOURS: Trucks wait to be cleared in the no-man's land on the Kenya-Tanzania border crossing in Namanga.
Image: FILE

Senior officials at Kenya's Ministry of Foreign Affairs are in contact with their  Tanzanian counterparts to diffuse the tension that has brewed at the border.

Principal Secretary Macharia Kamau said efforts are being made to strengthen bilateral ties even as the two countries combat the spread of Covid-19 at the entry points.

“We are in touch with our Tanzanian counterparts over the issue. This is happening on multiple levels across the government,” Kamau told the Star on Wednesday.

The strained relationship between the two countries was further strained after President Uhuru Kenyatta closed the borders with Tanzania to curb cases of imported Covid-19. Kenya exempted cargo trucks but their drivers must test negative to be allowed entry.

Some Tanzanian officials responded by announcing that they will not allow trucks ferrying cargo from Kenya to enter.

Kenya’s High Commissioner to Tanzania Dan Kazungu has called for calm and patience among citizens of the two countries saying the matter was being addressed.

“We have challenges with the flow of goods at the border. I have engaged the Minister of Foreign Affairs who has confirmed he will be in touch with his counterparts in Nairobi to resolve the issues,” he stated.

Kazungu acknowledged the challenges and said the best way is for officials from the two countries to sit together and resolve the issues.

“My message to Kenyans in Tanzania is to be patient. We do not want emotions to run wild. We want to be calm and find solutions. The situation is inconveniencing but we must solve our challenges together,” he pleaded.

“The two countries have very historic ties… we share bloodlines. Remember Tanzania was ready to delay independence in 1961 until Kenya was independent,” Kazungu said.

He said the emotions witnessed at the borders are of the same people, the Maasai community. “We should not let the matter get out of hand because it is going to destabilise families and trade.”

Trade between Kenya and Tanzania - which in normal times averages Sh38 billion per year - has been severely affected by Covid-19. Kenya sells goods worth Sh27 billion to Tanzania and buys Sh11 billion goods from her neighbour.

East African Community and Regional Development Cabinet Secretary Adan Mohammed on Tuesday said Tanzania risked losing a great deal if cargo from Kenya is denied entry.

He said Kenya is working on easing the tension through diplomatic channels. Mohammed clarified that border points across the EAC, Somalia and Ethiopia have been closed for people but cargo is allowed.

Last week, Rwanda and Tanzania reached an agreement after days of a stalemate during which Tanzanian truck drivers protested measures by Rwanda to avert cross-border transmission of the disease.

They agreed to stop the swapping of drivers at the Rusumo border. The two countries also agreed that to prevent further spread of Covid-19, truck drivers will have to undergo mandatory testing at the starting point, facilitated by Tanzania. 

Rwanda ordered mandatory tests of truck drivers at its borders.

Edited by R.Wamochie