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President Uhuru Kenyatta’s debt to John Magufuli

POLITICS
By MIKE NYAGWOKA | March 19th 2021

President Kenyatta and Tanzania President John Pombe Magufuli when he arrived in Chato in north-western Tanzania at the start of his two-day private visit of the region. [Courtesy]

Fallen Tanzanian president John Pombe Magufuli shared a special relationship with his Kenyan Counterpart President Uhuru Kenyatta.

This was more evident in the year 2019 when Kenyatta made a two-day private visit to Magufuli’s private residence in Chato, Geita District and spent a night in Magufuli’s home.

In a rare show of his spiritual side, President Uhuru Kenyatta went ahead to lead a two-minute prayer session for Magufuli’s mother Suzanna Magufuli who was ailing and bedridden at the time. Kenyatta also visited the graves of Magufuli’s departed relatives including Magufuli’s brothers and father, a gesture that touched the late Magufuli in a big way.

It is out of this feeling of gratitude that he went ahead to gift President Kenyatta two peacocks and two peahens, something he claimed he had never done before and would not easily do to any other person.

"I have been greatly touched by your visit here and I'm going to give you these two peacocks and two peahens as an appreciation for this great honor of your visit," Magufuli said.

"You will have to return them when they hatch", Magufuli added but seemingly on a light note. The peacocks were delivered two months later in August 2019.

While mourning him yesterday, President Uhuru Kenyatta also tearfully remembered a special visit Magufuli made his mother Mama Ngina Kenyatta. ‘I have lost a friend and a colleague and as Kenyans, we are going to stand with the Republic of Tanzania during these tough times’ Kenyatta mourned.

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President Uhuru Kenyatta and Tanzanian President John Magufuli try their hands on drums when they presided over the official opening of the Namanga One-Stop Border Point, Namanga. [PSCU]

However, while they preached brotherhood in their personal capacities, it is Magufuli’s reign that had the greatest threat to the stability of the East African Community.

There was a diplomatic row in the year 2017 when Tanzania Authorities set ablaze 6400 chicks. They had been impounded on allegations that they had been smuggled from Kenya. In the year 2018 over 1300 cows confiscated from Kenyan herders were confiscated and auctioned in Arusha.

The herders were later compensated by the Kenyan Government. In the year 2019, Starehe Member of Parliament Charles Njagua raised another furore when he claimed that Tanzanian traders were dominating markets in Nairobi CBD which falls in his constituency. 

During the Covid-19 pandemic, the two counterparts have been speaking from different scripts to the extent that the Late Magufuli missed a crucial virtual EAC session in May that was meant to discuss the EAC preparedness to combat Covid-19. 

There were several other incidences including border closures, rejection of Kenyans seconded to corporations in Tanzania and some chiding comments against Kenya for taking what he considered unnecessary measures to curb the Covid-19 outbreak.

However, Magufuli’s peafowls will remain a reminder that despite all, Kenyans and Tanzanians will continue to be brothers for a long time.

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