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15th May 2022

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The unspoken message in Suluhu visit

Monday May 10 2021

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President Uhuru Kenyatta with Her Excellency Samia Suluhu Hassan, President of the United Republic of Tanzania at State House, Nairobi. PHOTO | PSCU

collinsodote_img By COLLINS ODOTE
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Summary

  • While the two countries are founding members of the East African Community, they have had an on-and-off relationship, at times cordial and other times frosty.
  • During the reign of the former President John Pombe Magufuli, the latter position prevailed.

The visit by Tanzanian President Samia Suluhu Hassan to Kenya last week excited the country. The visit led to a resetting of relations between the two neighbours.

While the two countries are founding members of the East African Community, they have had an on-and-off relationship, at times cordial and other times frosty. During the reign of the former President John Pombe Magufuli, the latter position prevailed.

The visit by President Suluhu on the heels of the attendance of President Kenyatta at the State funeral of the late Tanzanian President signalled the two countries’ desire to ensure they are back on the path of good neighbourliness.

The visit lived up to its billing. From the 21-gun salute to the discussions at State House, the meeting with businesspeople and the address in Parliament. The official outcome of the discussions is in the public domain.

In addition to what has already been captured in the press, there are some lessons that emerge from her visit, which while not part of the official discussions should be considered by Kenya in her quest to better her democracy.

First is the issue of gender. She joins a list of a very tiny number of women presidents in the world and even a smaller number in Africa. Photos of the Summit of the Heads of State meeting of the African Union show it is largely a boys’ club.

Such photos cannot inspire girls to aspire to lead their countries, since it seems an unachievable task, without any role models to look up to. This glass ceiling gets shattered by the presidency of women such as Suluhu.

Kenya, which has since 2010 Constitution been grappling with how to meet the two-thirds gender principle in elective leadership, should get inspiration from Tanzania and aspire to have more women in top leadership positions.

The visit came against the backdrop of the nomination of Justice Martha Koome by the Judicial Service Commission to be the next Chief Justice. This too is historical, since it is the first time that that arm of government is being led by a woman in the history of the country.

It is important that the country normalises the leadership of women, by taking both affirmative and other measures required to ensure that 50 percent of the country’s population gets their equitable share in all spheres of life and operations.

The second issue is the question of inclusivity. While not officially stated, there is marked difference between the Kenyan and Tanzanian society. While in Kenya the question of ethnicity reigns supreme, influencing several facets of our life and most exemplified in political discourse and decision making, the reverse is true in Tanzania.

Part of the reason for this difference is how the Tanzanian society has been built and sustained. From a history of inclusivity and patriotism to a leadership that has focused on Tanzania and not factionalism, it is very difficult to hear Tanzanians discuss their tribes.

In addition, their governance arrangement has some inbuilt mechanisms of ensuring that the different parts of the society are part and parcel of the political leadership of the country. As Kenya debates its constitutional reform process it needs to continue reflecting on these issues with a view to ensuring that there is true inclusivity and a sense of belonging for all parts of the country.

Kenya is a modern and democratic state. However, its progress is bogged down by lack of true, honest and deep sense of nationhood and inclusivity. While the Constitution, laws and policies recognise the importance of reflection of the face of Kenya in public affairs, delivering on this continues to elude the country.

What is even worse is that the country may not be making enough effort to realis this aspiration. Consequently, anger, divisions and mistrust rule many processes to the detriment of the country’s development.

President Suluhu’s visit should enable us to reflect on the above issues and take deliberate steps to deal with them to make our democracy better.

2021-05-10 07:46:49


www.businessdailyafrica.com


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