A short background.
Rivalry between Kenya and Tanzania has reached insane heights since President Magufuli took over power. When Tanzania built a ‘suspension bridge’ in Dar es Salaam a few months ago, they were quick to rub it on Kenya’s face. President Magufuli himself led the assault, taking a swipe at Kenya during the official opening of the gate.
“This is the only bridge of its kind in East and Central Africa. Go to Uganda, Kenya, DRC, there’s no bridge like this one,” he said.
“And that’s why those who think everything good is in their country have started writing. They said Mt. Kilimanjaro is theirs, Olduvai gorge etc.” he said,
A few months before the bridge, Raila Odinga’s daughter Rosemary Odinga, speaking at the International Young Leaders Assembly (IYLA), stated that Olduvai Gorge is in Kenya (she later apologized). Tanzanians declared war on her, writing open letters right, left and centre.
The rivarly has continued in regional online forums, with netizens from the two countries measuring dicks on anything from skyscrapers to roads to food security to national budgets.
Tanzanians see themselves as a previously sleeping nation that has woken up and will soon take Kenya’s position as East Africa’s largest economy.
The feeling expressed by Tanzanians online is clearly the government’s stand.
What started a little during Kikwete’s reign has now gained momentum. Kenya Airways having its flight frequency reduced while British owned Fast Jet gets a free pass, Kenyan tour drivers being turned back at the border.. etc.
Currently, there’s a big issue Tanzania is frustrating Kenya on. They have refused to sign an agreement with the rest of EAC countries, that will allow the region to export certain goods to the EU tax free.
EU offers preferential treatment to regional blocs and low income countries. In East Africa, Kenya is the only country not classified as low income, that means we’re ruled of a preferential agreement in that regard.
Our only alternative is to negotiate an agreement with the EU as a regional bloc – East African Community. The details have been ironed out, Uganda, Rwanda and Burundi have signed, but Tanzania has refused. To them, it doesn’t matter whether they sign it or not, because as a low income country, they already qualify for untaxed exports to the EU.
If they totally fail to sign within the next two or three weeks, Kenya will have to pay a tax of up to 22% for it’s flowers and vegetables to the EU. That makes our products uncompetitive and soon people may start losing jobs in Naivasha.
The only thing Tanzania gains from this is Kenya’s downfall.
When Tanzania won the pipeline war, that only gave them more impetus to bring Kenya down. While Kenya has a very diplomatic and calm President and Foreign secretary, Tanzania is led by an impulse president with dictatorial tendencies and no regard for due process. It is highly unlikely that the two would sit down and agree.
The problem is however more complex than it appears. Tanzania has long accused Kenya of benefiting more from the collapse of the original EAC. Kenya Airways, then East African Airways, is cited as one of the corporations we ‘stole’ from the community.
According to Tanzania, the new EAC is also tailor-made for Kenya’s economic benefit, and that’s why they’ve been slow to adopt it. That has led the way to the rise of the ‘coalition of the willing’, which excluded Tanzania in infrastructural matters.
It is not uncommon for two countries sharing a border to be the agents of each other’s downfall, but Tanzania takes it to the next level.
While Tanzania contributes virtually nothing to the Kenyan economy, Kenya is in the top 4 of the country’s sources of Foreign Direct Investment (FDI). Yet they keep making tailor-made laws to keep us out.
Tanzania accuses Kenya of exploiting them, but the same can also be said to be true with their SADC partners South Africa. They’ve opened up their market to the South Africans letting them dominate their economy in all aspects. Curiously, they see Kenya as a bigger threat than South Africa.
Back to the Kilimanjaro, it happened that a prominent South African rally driver, Gugu Zulu, died while attempting to climb the mountain a few days ago. International media picked up the story and the Associated Press in particular indicated that Kilimanjaro is in Kenya.
What should have been a simple error quickly attracted the wrath of Tanzanians online, who demanded a retraction and apology from AP and other publications which it distributed the story to.
The Tanzanian Tourist Board actually released a press statement ‘refuting’ the claims that Africa’s highest mountain is in Kenya.
It was reported that Gugu Zulu died as a result of poor medical response.
As one journalist pointed out, it is very strange that Tanzania want the world to know that a South African hero died in their soil and not in Kenya.
— Dan Ashby (@danielashby) July 19, 2016
If I knew any better, I would advise Tanzania not to bring up the story of who owns Kilimanjaro until there’s good news coming from the mountain. As you can see already from this sample South African newspaper headline, questions are being asked.
But that’s beside the point. The question remains, why does Tanzania feel threatened by Kenya?
Is it inferiority complex coupled by blind nationalism? Or do they have genuine concerns?
Relations between the two countries will only get worse. With a national budget nearly twice as big as Tanzania’s and the gap widening every year, Kenya will continue to feel invincible. And with government/parastatal owned skyscrapers coming up everyday in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania will continue to believe it’s only a matter of time before they’re kings of East Africa.