Tanzanian President John Magufuli has dismissed claims that his administration has been keeping away from neighbours by focusing on local issues.
On his first visit to Kenya since he was elected, Dr Magufuli on Monday argued that he was always in touch with President Kenyatta through the phone, and still considers Kenya “our number one partner in Africa.”
“We speak often with President Kenyatta on phone, but because phone calls don’t always get seen in public, some people don’t know, so 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.
“My visit here is to cement the good relationship that has existed before,” he added.
Dr Magufuli, whose leadership has been punctuated with a purge on corruption, said he was also in Nairobi to explain his policies meant to make Tanzania a better place to invest.
“I have told President Kenyatta about the reality in Tanzania to enable it to move forward. We want Tanzanians to pay taxes, fight corruption and enable the country to move forward.”
“I believe that if we go at that pace, we can reach the level where we believe we are taking our country to acceptable places.
“But I have also assured the President that Kenya is our partner number one in Africa — there are more Kenyan firms in Tanzania than any other African country,” the Tanzanian leader said.
He said Tanzania was open to Kenyans wishing to do business with Dar es Salaam.
“(They can) come even today. Because we want to do business with our brothers,” he said.
On arrival, President Magufuli was accorded full military honours, complete with a 21-gun salute.
The elaborate state reception included a colourful guard of honour mounted by a detachment of the Kenya Air Force, with the military band playing the national anthems of Kenya and Tanzania and that of the East African Community.
The Tanzanian leader began his visit by laying a wreath at the mausoleum of Kenya’s founding father, Mzee Jomo Kenyatta, before proceeding to State House for the formal reception shortly after 11am.
Deputy President William Ruto, Cabinet secretaries, Chief of Defence Forces General Samson Mwathethe and other senior government officials also attended the reception.
Thereafter, the Tanzanian leader signed the distinguished visitors’ book, after which President Kenyatta invited him into his office for tête-à-tête.
The leaders are expected to discuss a range of issues of mutual interest at the bilateral and regional level.
President Magufuli’s visit gives the two neighbouring countries a chance to renew and deepen their partnership in a number of fields.
Additional reporting by PSCU.