Tanzanian President Samia Suluhu Hassan has said that an order five years ago to burn 6,400 live chicks imported from Kenya was wrong.
The chicks, which were impounded at the Namanga border town, were set on fire in November 2017 on grounds that they were smuggled into Tanzania.
Five years after the torching, the president said the action nearly soiled the historical relations between the two trading partners.
“It was not a good way to handle such imports. Even chickens have the right to live,” she said when she addressed lawyers from the region.
The move was criticised by members of the business community from the two neighbouring countries as well as animal rights groups.
The 6,400 day-old chicks were impounded at the famous border town between the two states on allegations of being illegal imports.
The matter nearly degenerated into a diplomatic tiff as Kenya formally protested over what it termed as “a policy shift that condones hostile actions against Kenyan citizens”.
The then Tanzania High Commissioner to Kenya Pindi Chana was summoned by Kenya’s Foreign ministry to explain “the unilateral action”.
At that time, the Ministry of Livestock Development and Fisheries said the burning of live chicks was made to prevent the spread of bird flu.
Kenya complained that no case of bird flu had been reported within its borders while other Tanzanian officials claimed the importation of the chicks was not supported by paperwork.
The burning of poultry from Kenya in November 2017 was preceded by the auctioning of 1,325 head of cattle from Kenya by the Tanzanian authorities.
The animals belonged to Kenyan herders and were confiscated in October 2017 while grazing on the Tanzania side of the common border.
The burned chicks were reportedly imported from tKenya by poultry farmers based in Arusha.
In Tanzania, the action was highly criticised by animal rights groups who said it was a wrong measure to address such imports.
Tanzania Animal Welfare Society executive director Thomas Kahema said there were more effective ways to tackle the problem.
“It would have been better to return the chicks to Kenya than to burn them,” he told The Citizen.
One of the chick importers, Ms Mary Matia, said she bought them for more than $5,000 and watched with sadness as they were burnt.
President Hassan did not delve much into the saga when she opened an annual conference of the East African Law Society.
However, she was clear on her government’s commitment to foster trade relations with neighbours, specifically Kenya.
According to her, such “counterproductive acts” like the burning of imported live chicks would not feature anymore.
She said trade volumes between Tanzania and Kenya had soared to over $1 billion worth of goods by last year after her visit to Nairobi.
“It was a major breakthrough after I visited Nairobi where we made business commitments with former President Uhuru Kenyatta,” she said.
She revealed that out of the 64 persistent non-tariff barriers that existed between Tanzania and Kenya in early 2021, 55 have been scrapped.
“Our trade is now booming. Go and read statistics,” she said, imploring the lawyers to support the cross-border business in the region.