Will Tanzania's President Magufuli attend Uhuru's inauguration?

The two heads-of-state have had a cold relationship for the past few months

The event, to be held at the Kasarani Stadium in Nairobi, is expected to draw at least 100,000 people which includes ordinary citizens, government officials as well as international dignitaries.

While the Ministry of Foreign Affairs is yet to avail the names of international dignitaries to attend the event, one of those likely to be in the list is Tanzanian president John Magufuli.

Magufuli was among the dignitaries invited to attend the initial swearing-in ceremony of Mr. Kenyatta after winning the Aug 8 poll before the Supreme Court annulled his victory days later.

Whether he will accept an invitation or even be invited as initially planned remains to be seen.

Cold relationship

The two heads-of-state have had a cold relationship for the past few months pointing further to the bilateral highs and lows witnessed between the two countries.

Mr. Kenyatta is  not  on cordial terms with Magufuli owing to his alleged close relationship with NASA leader Raila Odinga, a key rival of Uhuru.

So strong is the relationship between the two, such that during Magufuli's inauguration ceremony in 2015, attended by both Odinga and Kenyatta , assembled dignitaries gave Mr Odinga a standing ovation and warmth, which was not extended to the formal Kenyan government delegation, led by President Kenyatta.

Trade row

If Magufuli were to decline Mr. Kenyatta's invitation or miss out on an invitation, it could further worsen the rift with Tanzania which has been Kenya’s second largest export market after Uganda, underlining its importance as a trading partner.

The two countries have been engaged in a trade row that has affected cattle and chicken but started from a dispute over milk and cigarettes.

A few weeks ago, the Tanzanian government burnt to death 6,400 one-day-old chicks from Kenya, on suspicion they could spread bird flu.  A few days later,his administration auctioned more than 1,300 cows near Arusha for about Sh93 million.

“Let them (Kenyans) also take similar action if cows from Tanzania are arrested in their country,” he said, without mentioning Kenya by name.

Kenya issued a protest note on the action through its Foreign Affairs Cabinet Secretary whilst the enraged governor of Kajiado Governor Joseph ole Lenku, accused him of sabotaging good neighbourliness.

“This man (President Magufuli) is a disgrace to East Africans. He continues to sabotage good neighbourliness with his government officers harassing Kenyans over flimsy grounds,” said Mr Lenku.

“I have lobbied for diplomacy to apply when issues arise in mutual respect of East Africa citizens. However, Maasai Morans are being driven to defend themselves. We can’t tolerate this anymore.”

With such incidents happening, it remains to be seen whether Magufuli will indeed show up for Uhuru's inauguration ceremony.


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