Tanzania's President Samia Suluhu arrives in Rwanda for maiden visit

Monday August 02 2021
Tanzania's President Samia Suluhu Hassan arrives in Rwanda.

Tanzania's President Samia Suluhu Hassan (centre) arrives in Rwanda on August 2, 2021. PHOTO | CYRIL NDEGEYA | NMG

By The EastAfrican

Tanzania's President Samia Suluhu Hassan arrived in Kigali Monday for her two-day State visit to Rwanda, during which she is expected to hold private talks with President Paul Kagame.

She was received at Kigali International Airport by Rwanda's Foreign Affairs Minister Vincent Biruta.

The Heads of State are expected to sign bilateral agreements and address a joint press briefing later on Monday.  

In the evening, President Kagame will host President Samia and her delegation for a State Banquet at the Kigali Convention Centre.

On Tuesday, President Kagame and President Samia will visit several companies in various sectors, including the Special Economic Zone which is home to 120 companies with activities ranging from manufacturing, agro-processing and education, according to a media advisory from the President's Office.

Tanzania's President Samia Suluhu Hassan with Rwanda's Foreign Affairs Minister Vincent Biruta.

Tanzania's President Samia Suluhu Hassan with Rwanda's Foreign Affairs Minister Vincent Biruta in Kigali on August 2, 2021. PHOTO | CYRIL NDEGEYA | NMG


President Samia’s visit will follow the footsteps of several high level meetings between top officials from both countries.

The most recent meeting was held on July 16, when Rwanda’s Minister of ICT, Paula Ingabire, met her Tanzanian counterpart Faustine Ndugulile, to review submarine cable infrastructures in Tanzania that support communication services to Rwanda.

On July 9, Rwanda's Ambassador to Tanzania, Major General Charles Karamba, met Tanzania's Minister of Defence Elias Kwandikwa in Dodoma, where they discussed "mutual interest" topics.

One of the most crucial topics of interest between the two countries now is the instability in Mozambique, where Rwanda has deployed 1,000 soldiers and policemen to fight insurgents. Tanzania also has a Memorandum of Understanding with Mozambique, signed in November 2020, to jointly battle the militants in Cabo Delgado Province in the country’s north.

Rwanda's deployment of troops to Mozambique was not entirely supported by the Southern Africa Development Community (SADC), with reports indicating that the bloc expressed concern over a non-member deploying soldiers to the region without its approval.

Tanzania's President Samia Suluhu Hassan.

Tanzania's President Samia Suluhu Hassan arrives in Rwanda on August 2, 2021. PHOTO | CYRIL NDEGEYA | NMG

Samia's visit now provides Rwanda with an opportunity to woo one of SADC's core members – Tanzania – on her side on matters related to the instability in Mozambique.

High on the agenda for talks between Samia and Kagame will also be the Isaka-Kigali standard gauge railway line, which has experienced delayed construction due to lack of funds. The 532km railway line linking Rwanda to Tanzania and the DRC is expected to cost up to $2.5 billion, with Tanzania paying $1.3 billion and Rwanda $1.2billion.

Rwanda and Tanzania have enjoyed cordial ties since 2015.

Before that both countries had a tumultuous past, at the height of which Rwanda accused Tanzanian officials of supporting rebels, while Tanzania expelled thousands of Rwandan settlers in 2013. The two countries have been largely on the same page since 2015.

The most recent notable point of contention came in mid-2020 over disagreements on how to control border crossings during the coronavirus pandemic.

After back and forth interactions, the impasse was solved in May when Rwanda agreed to draw back its proposed swapping of drivers at Rusumo border, a proposal that had angered Tanzania's truck drivers' association.

Both countries also agreed to testing of truck drivers at their starting point in order to curtail the spread of Covid-19 across borders.

President Samia's first trip outside the country since she took over as head of state was to Uganda in April, followed by Kenya in May.

In early July, she visited Burundi, and with her visit to Rwanda, she will have visited all but one member—South Sudan—of the East African Community within the first four months of her presidency.

This also means that she has visited more countries than her predecessor John Pombe Magufuli did in his first full year as president.