President Paul Kagame has said that the visit by his Tanzanian counterpart, John Pombe Magufuli, to Rwanda signifies a new relationship between the two neighbouring states.
During a state dinner organised in honour of Magufuli Wednesday night, Kagame said he and the Tanzanian leader can work together on the journey of moving the East African Community (EAC) – a six-nation bloc to which both countries subscribe – forward.
This marks the first foreign visit by President Magufuli since he was elected the fifth president of the United Republic of Tanzania in October.
Magufuli arrived in Rwanda for a two-day official visit yesterday and is expected to leave this evening.
Magufuli and his wife Janeth Magufuli travelled to Rwanda by road through the Rusumo border where they were welcomed by President Kagame and First Lady Jeannette Kagame, among other government officials.
The two leaders proceeded to jointly inaugurate the Rusumo one-stop border post, a facility that will see immigration and customs officials at the two countries’ border work under the same roof to ease travel and business operations, as well as the Rusumo International Bridge.
From there, the Presidents headed to Kagame’s home at Muhazi, where Rwandan leader gave five cows to his Tanzanian counterpart.
In the Rwandan culture, a cow is a symbol of friendship and appreciation.
It’s from there that the two leaders headed to Kigali by road and later sat together and exchanged pleasantries at the state banquette in honour of President Magufuli at Kigali Serena Hotel.
Kagame said that given their shared history, Tanzania and Rwanda’s relations can only be fraternal. This is how it should always be, said the Rwandan leader.
“Mr President, we are honoured to being your first foreign host since you became the President of Tanzania. I wish to tell you that since when you were elected, your presence has been refreshing; refreshing a sense that your words and deeds reflect our vision,” Kagame told his guest, who has made headlines in recent days for his tough stance against corruption and wasteful government spending.
And Kagame, himself known for relentlessly promoting efficiency and cracking down on corruption in public service, acknowledged Magufuli’s effort in fighting graft.
“Corruption has been talked about throughout the continent, but the message and commitment has only come to pass. However, your stance against corruption is very refreshing. I want to tell you that you have a good partner in us, as we work together to continue fighting corruption,” Kagame said.
On his part, President Magufuli thanked his Rwandan counterpart for extending him an invitation to visit Rwanda.
“The people of Tanzania hold in high esteem the beauty and history of Rwanda; and I admired the determination and commitment of the leadership of this country to succeed against all odds,” he said.
He added: “A couple of decades ago, Rwanda was emerging from a genocide that destroyed the country’s economy and infrastructure. From the ashes of the genocide, Rwanda has emerged as a progressive society, making tremendous strides politically, economically and socially.”
Magufuli’s visit came at a time Rwanda was starting a weeklong commemoration of the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi, with the Tanzanian leader joining President Kagame, Genocide survivors and other officials and diplomats in paying respects to victims at the Kigali Genocide Memorial Centre earlier Thursday, marking the official beginning of commemoration events.
Magufuli, who is also the current chair of the East African Community, said that Rwanda’s “remarkable journey of development” has benefited the East African region.
Tanzania and Rwanda enjoy strong bilateral and international relations and the two countries will be working together on a number of bilateral and regional projects, he said.
“There is a large community of Rwandans living in Tanzania and they have integrated very well, and I believe there are many Tanzanians who are residents in Rwanda as well. This close relationship is helping our two countries economically through trade and investments,” he said.
Magufuli said that trade between the two countries, according to a 2014 report by the central bank of Tanzania, stood at $82.7 million, from $15.2 million in 2009.
“I believe today, figures have certainly increased. However, there is always room for improvement given the economic potentials that exist between the two countries.
Thousands of Rwandans and perceived Rwandans were in the past expelled from Tanzania under questionable circumstances, while relations between Kigali and Dar have also previously suffered from what many viewed as closeness between then Tanzanian leaders and elements linked to the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi.
Meanwhile, Magufuli said that with the accession of South Sudan, the East African Community’s population should make the most of this larger market of 165 million to ensure the bloc’s transformation.
Magufuli also said that he and Kagame had agreed to increase momentum in following up on and implementation of regional development initiatives.
“I have come to reassure you of my commitment to strengthen the relationship between Rwanda and Tanzania. I wish to assure you, Mr President, of my readiness to work with you to further cement and consolidate our cooperation in areas of mutual interest,” he said.
Meanwhile, President Kagame criticized some in the international community, whom he said had made themselves “opinion monopolists” on issues Rwanda and Africa in general.
He said that Rwanda was on the right track and that the people of Rwanda will not allow the country’s tragic history to repeat itself.Follow https://twitter.com/AthanTashobya