Kenya and Malawi on Thursday signed a number of collaborative arrangements meant to cement what their respective leaders called “intricate fraternal bonds,” and secure prosperity.
And after a 3rd Kenya-Malawi Joint Permanent Commission (JPCC-3), the two sides signed memoranda of understanding on defence, political and diplomatic consultations, health, tourism, cooperatives, training, fisheries development as well as aquaculture.
The JPCC has been an arena where both country’s diplomats negotiate, caucus or discuss issues of mutual interest. This third meeting came on Thursday, on the final day of President Lazarus Chakwera’s state visit to Kenya.
President Uhuru Kenyatta told a joint press briefing in Nairobi that the signing of the MoU reflects areas that both countries must work on in the spirit of developing Africa.
“The signing of the eight instruments of cooperation heralds a new dawn in the Kenya-Malawi bilateral relations that will, without doubt, be dominated by years of success and progress,” President Kenyatta said.
“Through the years, Kenya and Malawi have maintained a strong bond of friendship that has seen the two countries collaborate in initiatives aimed at securing the prosperity of our peoples,” he added.
The two sides vowed to finalise deals on forestry management, ICT, police service training, protection of investments and avoidance of double taxation, urban development and youth development “so as to fully unlock the potential of our bilateral ties for the benefit of the Citizens of our two Republics.”
The eight instruments will not be specific for now and both sides will have to negotiate further bilateral agreements that will provide timelines, costs, scale as well as routine. But it marks a significant step towards a framework for cooperation, diplomats told Nation.africa on Thursday.
One area of cooperation the two leaders are targeting is prevention of cross-border crimes and exportation of violent extremism, which is currently being partly blamed as the cause of the insurgency in Mozambique, Malawi’s neighbour.
President Chakwera is the current chairman of the southern Africa bloc, SADC, while President Kenyatta is the chairman of the East African Community. The two leaders vowed to cooperate between blocs, as well as finalise discussions on the future of cooperation between SADC, EAC and the Africa Union.
“As each other’s keeper, we have to ensure the guns become silent beyond our borders and across Africa. Peace and stability are irreplaceable cornerstones that grant countries a firm foundation to a robust and strong economy,” President Kenyatta said, referring to a policy vision by the African Union, which is overdue.
“It behooves us to maintain focus on strengthening of our strategic partnerships to enhance our competitiveness. As our countries work to enhance our bilateral and multilateral cooperation, Kenya is committed to working with Malawi in the realisation of the EAC-COMESA-SADC Free Trade Areas as well the Africa Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA),” he added.
Visiting Malawian President Lazarus Chakwera had earlier on said the ties between the two countries is “no accident”.
Speaking during this year’s Mashujaa Day celebrations in Mwea, Kirinyaga County on Wednesday, Dr Chakwera said both countries were bonded by a common enemy, similar struggles and identical visions.
“For me visiting Kenya is proof of our brotherhood and unity,” he said, adding that “it is my prayer that Kenyans and Malawians maintain togetherness, to build the economies of our countries, to support one another, maintain peace in our countries and Africa.”
Dr Chakwera, a cleric before joining politics, ventured into his signature pulpit poetry, saying the ties between the two countries did not just emerge from the blue but was a vision by their respective forefathers.
“Today, Kenya’s joy is Malawi’s joy. For us, the struggle for independence in Kenya and Malawi is one of the things that binds us together. The struggle for independence in Kenya and Malawi was led by patriots who sacrificed their freedoms to safeguard ours.”
Both Kenya and Malawi were colonised by the British, whom Chakwera referred to as a “common oppressor” and they gained their independence almost at the same time in the early 1960s. Kenya got its independence on December 12, 1963, and had it declared a republic on December 12, 1964. Malawi got its independence on July 6, 1964
Malawi’s first President Hastings Kamuzu Banda had initially been Prime Minister before he became a full head of state, just as Kenya’s Jomo Kenyatta. The two leaders would name roads in their respective countries after each other. Malawi’s three biggest cities have main roads named after Jomo Kenyatta.
“All this is because the founders of my nation wanted to make it clear for generations to come that those celebrated as heroes in Kenya’s struggle for independence are celebrated as heroes in Malawi,” he said.
“The bottom line is this: Whatever path you take to trace the history of independence in Kenya and Malawi, one fact is clear and indisputable that the fight for independence in Kenya and Malawi did not just take place simultaneously, it also took place symbiotically.”
Dr Chakwera became the second Malawian President to address a public celebration in Kenya under the administration of President Uhuru Kenyatta. But Banda had visited Kenya earlier in October 1967, and returned to Kenya several times later, before he died in 1994.