Nairobi — TANZANIA and Kenya have agreed to increase their cooperation in order to control smugglers and curb illegal transit immigration through their common borders, it was learnt here over the weekend.
Kenya's Ministry of Foreign Affairs Permanent Secretary Thuita Mwangi told the media here that the conflict in Somalia and other Horn of African countries had forced some people to seek opportunities in southern areas.
"The Kenya and Tanzanian governments have agreed to cooperate in order to tackle the growing transit of illegal immigrants between the two countries," Mwangi said on the sidelines of the second session of the Kenya-Tanzania Joint Commission for Cooperation (JCC) technical experts meeting.
The JCC was mooted by the two nations in order to increase relations beyond the political sphere in order to ensure they benefit from globalization. The meeting was in preparation for the three-day official state visit by President Jakaya Kikwete to Kenya starting today. Mr Kikwete is expected to sign a wide range of bilateral agreements between the two East African countries.
Tanzania's Ministry of Foreign Affairs Deputy Permanent Secretary, Rajabu Gamaha, said that his country's security organs are facing a huge influx of immigrants transiting through Tanzania. "Our country is working closely with Kenya in order to repatriate illegal immigrants who have crossed from Kenya to their home nations."
According to the Tanzania government, they are currently holding scores of immigrants who are using Tanzania to transit to South Africa. Gamaha said that both governments are set to sign a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) on public transportation.
"In order to enhance the movement of people and freight, both governments will sign an agreement that is mutually beneficial and will allow public transport vehicles from both countries operate in either country," the deputy permanent secretary said.
Gamaha added that both countries will soon sign an agreement on transfer of prisoners. "We are still negotiating before we sign a MoU that will allow prisoners to serve their sentences in their countries of origin," he said. He noted that both governments have also agreed to synchronize their development blueprints. "Kenya and Tanzania are bound by a common heritage and by working jointly they will be able exploit to the opportunities in the region," he said.
The Tanzania official added that various trans-boundary challenges including piracy need bilateral solutions. "The immigration problem exists because smugglers have created a business out of the desperate situation in some African countries by taking advantage of innocent people," he added.
Thuita noted that both countries have resolved to strengthen border controls in order to identify those responsible for the illicit trade. "Unfortunately, the porous borders have been used by human traffickers to achieve their goals," the Kenya official said. He said that the JCC will help streamline trade between the two neighbours in order to stimulate intra-East Africa trade.
He noted that the second JCC will be used to review the implementation progress of the resolutions of the first JCC which was held in Tanzania in 2009. "A number of agreements signed in 2009 are yet to be put into operation, but what is encouraging is that the volume of bilateral trade between Kenya and Tanzania has quadrupled in the past three years as a result of a common external tariff regime," Thuita said.
Kenya's Ministry of Foreign Affairs Director of Africa Affairs Michael Oyugi said that the JCC will provide an elaborate systematic framework of direct engagement in order to achieve socio-economic development and sustainable peace in the region.
Oyugi said that both countries have also agreed to review the bilateral air service agreements that will see Kenyan airlines use Tanzanian other airports especially Arusha Airport. Early this year, the two governments signed a three tier communique to speed up ratification of free trade between the two East African nations.
They also agreed to put up permanent free trading markets in key border points and also to lobby for provincial administrators to be given powers to process temporary passes for citizens.