Huduma Namba State of the Nation Uhuru Kenyatta
President Uhuru Kenyatta.

President Uhuru Kenyatta said on Friday Kenya and Tanzania will remain good neighbours and friends forever.

“It is written in the Bible that you can choose a friend but you cannot choose your neighbour,” Uhuru said at the start of his private visit to President John Magufuli’s native village of Chato in the country’s northwest region of Geita, broadcast live by state-owned Tanzania Broadcasting Corporation.

The President urged Kenyans and Tanzanians not to be distracted by silly pronouncements made by some politicians that were intended to create divisions among people in the two countries.

He was speaking in reference to last week’s xenophobic attacks made by a Kenyan lawmaker, Charles Njagua Kanyi, against foreigners, including Tanzanians, operating businesses in the Kenya.

In a clip that went viral on social media, Njagua was seen talking about traders from Tanzania, Uganda, Pakistan and China, accusing them of dominating markets in Nairobi, the capital, and harassing local traders.

“We should not allow politicians to harm our friendliness and neighbourliness. Kenyans and Tanzanians should be free to interact by visiting each other. They are free to interact in business and even in marriage,” he said to a deafening applause.

“How can a politician say a Tanzanian is not allowed to do business in Kenya,” he said. “Likewise you cannot stop a Kenyan wishing to cross over to Tanzania.”

Uhuru urged East African Community (EAC) leaders of Tanzania, Kenya, Uganda, Rwanda, Burundi and South Sudan to work together toward removing obstacles hampering smooth integration of people within the regional bloc.

“This is the EAC we want. The EAC that looks ahead,” he said, “This why today I have decided to pay a private visit to my friend President Magufuli. I want to eat fish here and make stories with my Tanzanian friend.”

Such private visits help to defuse tensions among leaders, he said.

For his part, President Magufuli said President Kenyatta has made history by becoming the first foreign leader to visit his native Chato village.

Magufuli thanked the Kenyan government for measures it took after the Kenyan politician had made xenophobic utterances against Tanzanians last week.

He said the EAC should not entertain cheap politics engineered by a few politicians for their personal gains.

Magufuli said Tanzania and Kenya have been good neighbors and friends since before the two countries gained independence in the early 1960s.

“Tanzania and Kenya speak one language (Swahili). We share Lake Victoria and we cooperate at international level through the EAC,” he said.

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