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President Hassan takes her charm offensive to Nairobi

Just over a month after President Magufuli's demise, his successor is repairing relations in the region

Strains in relations between Kenya and Tanzania date back decades to stated ideological differences over capitalism and socialism, to Kenya's bigger economy, and down to the national 'ownership' of Mount Kilimanjaro.

More recently, it didn't help that Tanzania's dour nationalist President John Magufuli and Kenya's ebullient President Uhuru Kenyatta had such contrasting personalities. 

Last month, Tanzanian President Samia Suluhu Hassan convened the Joint Permanent Commission (JPC) of the two countries to discuss bilateral trade ties. Sidelined under Magufuli, it hadn't met since 2016.

This week, President Hassan laid on the charm during a two-day visit to Kenya, her first official overseas visit. At its heart was her well-received address to Kenya's National Assembly that emphasised the two countries' shared culture, Swahili language (in which Tanzania is the acknowledged regional master), and environment. 

President Kenyatta responded by announcing the waiver of work and business permits for investors from Tanzania.

Among the cross-border projects agreed by the two leaders is the long-awaited plan to build a 600km pipeline connecting Dar es Salaam and Mombasa. The gas pipeline plans have been in the works for over a decade. 

The two leaders also signed memoranda on animal health and sanitary measures, culture, arts, social integration and national heritage.

Suluhu Hassan's predecessor was accorded an official period of mourning by the Kenyan government upon his death in March (AC Vol 62 No 6, After Magufuli, a difficult transition). 

However, despite being personally close to erstwhile opposition leader Raila Odinga, who gave him a particularly laudatory obituary, Magufuli's relations with Kenyatta were often prickly, particularly over the status of herders who graze cattle on either side of the Kenya/Tanzanian border, and on work permits for Kenyans wishing to work and do business cross-border (AC Vol 58 No 23, Making policy on the hoof).

Meanwhile, the Kenyan government blamed Magufuli's Covid denialism for its placement in April on the UK's 'red list' of countries from which travel is banned. In a nod to this, Suluhu Hassan made a point of keeping her facemask on throughout the visit.

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