With the exception of Tanzanian President John Magufuli, who rarely travels much and Burundi’s Pierre Nkurunziza, who appears to be increasingly isolated after he ran and won a controversial third term in office in May 2015, other heads of state in the region have been busy crisscrossing the continent.
Over the past month alone, Uganda President Yoweri Museveni has made state visits to Kenya whose President, Uhuru Kenyatta, has been to five countries already namely; Ethiopia, Eritrea, Rwanda, Uganda and Namibia.
Newly elected Democratic Republic of Congo President Felix Tshisekedi has quickly joined the fray and so far has been to Uganda, Kenya and Rwanda while Ethiopia’s first female President Sahle-Work Zewde has been to Rwanda.
At the Africa CEO Forum held in Kigali last past week, three of the region’s presidents showed up — Kagame, Tshisekedi and Zewde.
The three heads admitted there was more to the visits than bilateral relations and regional integration.
The diplomatic tiff between Rwanda and Uganda, instability in South Sudan and trade are some of the issues keeping the heads of state awake at night and has been at the core of the shuttle diplomacy.
President Tshisekedi has been busy trying to iron out the tiff between Kigali and Kampala,
“I have discussed with the two presidents but I will not go into detail. What I can report is that there will be no escalation to war,” he said.
But President Tshisekedi is not just keen to occupy his time as he learns the ropes of leadership. He also has his personal agenda and seeks support from neighbouring countries against militia in his country that he has vowed to disarm.
A long-term blockade would make it difficult for goods imported through the Mombasa port to reach Rwanda and eastern DRC, which Kenya is targeting together with Zambia to reverse its falling trade in the region.
Tshisekedi’s visits also have a business element to them and the newly elected president is also seeking regional assurances from East Africa countries that would buy electricity from his country once the potential of River Congo is fully harnessed.
President Zewde on her part is keen to leave a legacy as a peace maker and is challenging all countries in the region to do more for stability. She said Ethiopia for one had decided to go back to basics in relations with neighbouring countries.
“We are seeking better relations with the north. That is what our peace deal with Eritrea signified,” said President Zewde.