Eyebrows up as Tanzania President John Magufuli absent from Nairobi Blue Economy conference

President Uhuru Kenyatta, former Prime Minister Raila Odinga and Chairman of Inspiring global trade Jaswinder Bedi during a sustainable Blue Economy conference at KICC. [Beverlyne Musili, Standard]
The absence of Tanzania's president John Pombe Magufuli at the Blue Economy Conference in Nairobi has once again raised eyebrows.

Magufuli's failure to attend the Blue Economy Conference is, however, in line with his disdain for conferences, which he has cut to a bare minimum, shoe-string-budget affairs in Tanzania.

 He is the only missing East African head of State in the talks. Uganda's Yoweri Museveni, Somalia's Mohammed Farmaajo, Rwanda's Paul Kagame, Mozambique's Filipe Nyusi, and Seychelles' Danny Faure showed up.

The Blue Economy Conference officially commenced on Monday with several heads of states gracing the event. Over 183 countries have sent delegates bring the number of participants way above 17,600.

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Magufuli's absence has left many wondering whether the somewhat lukewarm diplomatic relationships between Kenya and Tanzania may be behind his decision to skip the conference jointly organised by Kenya, Canada and Japan.

The conference seeks to promote sustainable use of the seas, lakes and oceans as well as their resources for sustainable economic development.

It should be noted that Magufuli did not attend President Uhuru's first and second inauguration in 2012 and 2017 respectively.

Kenya and Tanzania have been at loggerheads ever since Nairobi protested, through diplomatic channels, at Tanzania's alleged hosting of a separate vote tallying centre linked to the Raila Odinga led NASA

In November 2017, President Magufuli caused a diplomatic stir when his government auctioned more than 1000 cows belonging to Kenyan Maasai pastoralists who were grazing them at the Tanzanian border. Magufuli government also burned 6,400 chicks imported from Kenya maintaining they were infected by bird flu.

SEE ALSO :Uhuru shows ‘soft side’ in his recent visit to Tanzania

Nairobi described Magufuli's action as hostile while the Tanzanian president vowed to go on auctioning and confiscating livestock that crossed the border without permission.

 "Tanzania cannot be a feeding farm for animals from other countries and that is why we have stated that we are going to take action according to the as law," Magufuli said adding: "We want to tell our neighbours to take measures based on their laws once our animals graze in their countries."

In December, 2015, Magufuli, banned Brookside Dairy from operating in Arusha, Tanzania.

While addressing the Tanzanian Private sector Foundation, he said it was not fair for Brookside Dairy Limited to collect milk from Tanzania, process it in Kenya and then sell the milk back to Tanzania.

"How many dairy companies do we have in our company which are working? Why is Brookside Company collecting milk from farmers in Arusha, taking it to Kenya for processing and then bringing it back for selling? Enough is enough, we can't allow this anymore" he told the business people.?

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