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REGIONAL AFFAIRS

Tanzania's wolf warrior diplomacy continues to win against Kenya

Tanzania continues to restrict free movement of labour across its borders

In Summary

• In the recent case, Tanzania on Wednesday lifted a ban on Kenyan airlines, including national career Kenya Airways.

• This was a day after Kenya included it in the list whose national need not quarantine once they arrive in the country.

Presidents John Magufuli of Tanzania and Uhuru Kenyatta address a news conference during his official visit to Nairobi yesterday /REUTERS\THOMAS MUKOYA
Presidents John Magufuli of Tanzania and Uhuru Kenyatta address a news conference during his official visit to Nairobi yesterday /REUTERS\THOMAS MUKOYA

Tanzania’s confrontational diplomacy seems to always win every time there is a diplomatic spat with Kenya.

In the latest incident, Tanzania on Wednesday lifted a ban on Kenyan airlines, including national career Kenya Airways, a day after Kenya included it in the list of countries whose nationals need not quarantine once they arrive in the country.

The interpretation was that it was a win for Tanzania, despite other states being added to the revised list. 

 

‘Confrontational diplomacy’ can be drawn from "wolf warrior diplomacy", which is popularly used by the Chinese. It is characterised by Chinese diplomats' use of confrontational rhetoric. It was also common between Malaysia and Singapore until Prime Minister Najib Razak put an end to it in 2018

Tanzania banned Kenya Airways, Fly 540, Air Kenya Express and Safarilink Aviation in August after being excluded from the list of countries whose nationals would be allowed entry under revised coronavirus restrictions.

“Diplomacy is governed by a principle known as reciprocity, and Kenya has excluded Tanzania from countries whose flights can access its airspace. At this time, they [Kenyans] can stop coming. It is not a tiff but a diplomatic principle,” Tanzania spokesperson Hassan Abbasi said on August 11.

Kenyan officials, including Foreign Affairs CAS Ababu Namwamba, denied any diplomatic spat.

Earlier in May, Tanzania barred Kenyan truck drivers from entering the country. This followed President Uhuru Kenyatta’s closure of Kenya’s border with Tanzania and Somalia to curb the spread of coronavirus. Somalia did not retaliate.

Uhuru had to call his Tanzanian counterpart, John Magufuli, to ‘resolve’ the brewing diplomatic row.

 
 

At stake was trade between the two states. According to the Kenya National Bureau of Statistics, Kenyan exports to Tanzania grew by 13 per cent to Sh33.9 billion in 2019.

Last year, Uhuru sent a delegation led by CS Monica Juma and comprised of DCI George Kinoti, DPP Noordin Haji and Attorney General Paul Kihara to return 35kg of gold seized by police to Tanzania.

That was not enough. Uhuru called Magufuli during the handover and said, “My brother, I say we continue working together and Kenya and Tanzania has no borders as we agreed."

Previously, there was a spat over tourism revolving around the 1985 bilateral agreement.

The agreement does not allow tour vans to access parks and airports in either of the states. They should hand over and/ or pick visitors at border points. Kenya has however been allowing in Tanzanian vans, unlike Dar.

This caused an uproar in January 2015 by Kenyan operators who protested against “invasion” by Tanzanians, while they were not allowed to cross over to Tanzania.

Former EAC and Tourism CS Phyllis Kandie then accused Tanzania of dragging its feet in resolving the dispute long after the EAC states developed a single tourism visa for the region.

Tanzania escalated the trade spat in February when it imposed fresh quality verification standards for Kenyan products.

Tanzania continues to restrict free movement of labour across its borders – failing to issue work permits – despite it ratifying the common market protocol.

In 2018, Dar es Salaam imposed a 25 per cent import duty on Kenyan confectionery, claiming Kenya had used zero-rated industrial sugar imports to produce them

Kenya seems to be taking all this it in its stride.