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President Kikwete’s flawless Swahili wows Kenyan legislators

COUNTIES
By Alphonce Shiundu | October 7th 2015
President Jakaya Kikwete addressing Kenyan Parliament in Nairobi on October 6, 2015. (Photo:Boniface Okendo)

Kenyan lawmakers cornered Tanzania's President Jakaya Kikwete and demanded an address in Kiswahili.

The MPs who had sat quietly listening to the visiting Head of State address the House in English, pushed for a Kiswahili address from their guest, and being an easy man, Kikwete obliged.

The Tanzanian President's aide promptly handed his boss a sheaf of papers with the Kiswahili version of the speech, and it is in there that the deep secrets, hitherto known to only a few people, were poured out to the whole country in a speech beamed live on Kenya's public broadcaster.

The Kiswahili delivered in a conversational tone, with the ease of a brother talking to a brother, Kikwete explained why to Tanzanians, Kenya is a very important partner not just in trade and infrastructure, but also in creating employment.

He said the ties between the two countries, especially with trade and investments, were key and would not be severed under any circumstances.

"Labda tupate mtu mpumbavu sana, wa ajabu sana... (unless we get a very stupid person)," said Kikwete, drawing laughter from Kenyan lawmakers as they recalled former Kenyan President Mwai Kibaki who was liberal with the word 'pumbavu' (foolish).

"Every smart leader will look for market for their country," said the Tanzanian leader. He said Kenya's investments in Tanzania had employed 56,000 people who were "now able to marry or get married and live well with their spouses." The MPs laughed.

Besides, Kikwete revealed how he shuttled from State House to Prime Minister Raila Odinga's office in the heat of the mediation efforts after the 2007-2008 post-poll chaos.

While insisting he did not wait to be "invited", Kikwete said he chose to come to Kenya to help his "relatives" heal and stop killing each other.

"When I came, Kibaki told me two things; 'Don't leave and tell Kofi Annan not to leave.' He also told me to stick around until everything was done," he said.

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