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Kenya's President Uhuru Kenyatta, right, listens as Tanzanian President Samia Suluhu Hassan speaks during a joint press conference at the State House in Nairobi, May 4, 2021. Photo AFP


NAIROBI - Kenya and Tanzania have signed a deal for a gas pipeline that will run between the coastal cities of Mombasa and Dar es Salaam. The signing took place Tuesday, as Tanzanian President Samia Suluhu Hassan made her first visit to Kenya following the death of her predecessor, John Magufuli.

Speaking to reporters in Nairobi after a closed-door meeting that lasted more than three hours, Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta said the two countries are ready to improve their relations. 

Relations between the two East African nations grew strained during the five years Magufuli was president of Tanzania. Magufuli died of heart disease in March and was replaced by Hassan, his vice president.

Kenyatta said Tuesday he and Hassan signed a gas pipeline deal that will improve the lives of his people and businesses. The pipeline will help reduce the cost of electric power, Kenyatta said, and will help transition Kenya to environment-friendly energy. 

Hassan said she and Kenyatta also agreed to reduce barriers to bilateral trade, in order to grow businesses and investment between the two countries.

Kigen Morumbasi, who teaches international relations and security at Strathmore University in Kenya, said good relations between the two countries have the potential to spur economic growth. 

"When we look at the two countries, we are looking at prospects in terms of bilateral trade. So, we are supposed to see bilateral trade going up and free movement of people, which of course have an issue, especially in the region. And if we look at the trade between Tanzania and Kenya, we know both of them are port countries. The closer ties between the two countries will elevate the economic development for both countries, as well, and remove the competition that has been dogging the two countries in the past," Morumbasi said. 

The two countries also agreed that health officials should work together on COVID-19 issues.  

That was not the case under Tanzania's late president. Under Magufuli, Tanzanian officials denied COVID-19 was present in the country and cast doubt on the effectiveness of vaccines.   

Hassan said Tuesday she and Kenyatta want to see health officials cooperating to ease the movement of people and goods. - Mohammed Yusuf, Voice of America

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