Kenyan President Mwai Kibaki has re-assured Rwandans, especially the business community, that the upcoming presidential elections will not interfere with the trade flow from Kenya to Rwanda.
Kibaki's message was delivered to President Paul Kagame yesterday afternoon by the former's special envoy, Joseph Nyagah, also the Minister for Cooperative Development.
The last Kenyan election violence in 2007 left over 600,000 people displaced following a disputed presidential poll and more than 1,200 people were killed.
Ugandan and Rwandan businesses lost their properties worth US$47.5 million in the violence, and are still awaiting compensation.
Most products to and from regional countries go through Mombasa port, the biggest port in the region. Rwanda mainly relies on Northern Corridor that also serves other countries like Uganda, (Northern) Tanzania, DR Congo and South Sudan, which highlights Kenya's significance in regional trade.
In January, the Rwanda Long Distance Trucks Drivers Association had asked for assurance from the Kenyan government that their goods would be secure as they are being ferried from Mombasa.
"President Kibaki asked me to come and explain to President Kagame what we have done this time in order to ensure that the flow of trade will continue irrespective of what happens in Kenya. I was able to explain to President Kagame that unlike last time in 2007 when the security forces were caught unaware by the situation, this time our security system is ready. We also have major changes in the Judiciary and other institutions," Nyaga told The New Times in an interview.
Mombasa is Rwanda's main exit and entry port through Uganda. The port handled over 260,238 tonnes of Rwanda-bound goods last year, up from 226,093 tonnes in the previous year. The Northern corridor is shorter and les costly compared to ferrying goods through Dar-es-Salaam.
Nyaga pointed out that, "As far as the flow of trade is concerned we confirm there is peace at the port of Mombasa for the goods of the neighbouring countries and we also assured the President that we have security arrangements in case of chaos which we do not anticipate this time."
President Kibaki, who has led the country since 2002, will step down after the March 4, 2013 general election.
According to Nyaga, "there will be a special escort for consignments from the port all the way to Malaba Kenya border.
"We have helicopters surveying and controlling the route, we have security personnel every few kilometres all the way because we are committed as a country to ensuring Rwandans do not suffer," he said.
He added that President Kibaki felt it was fair to explain to his Rwandan counterpart about the measures taken to ensure safety of trade flow during this period.
"President Kagame understood and appreciated the concerns that Kenya has. There are more measures that have been put in place and we expect that what happened would not happen again," said Nyaga.
During the 2007/o8 post election violence, President Kagame proposed that a stable institution in Kenya could have saved the situation.
Kenya has since undertaken sweeping reforms. Parts ammendments in the reforms in the Constitution and changes in the police, army and Judiciary.
Over 600 Kenyans in Rwanda have registered to participate in the election and they will, for the first time, cast their votes at the Kenyan High Commission in Kigali.
The candidates in the race for Kenya's top office include Uhuru Kenyatta (Jubilee Coalition), Raila Odinga (Cord), Mohamed Abduba Dida and Martha Wangari Karua. Others are Peter Kenneth, Prof James ole Kiyiapi, Paul Muite and Wycliffe Musalia Mudavadi.
In a related development, President Kibaki, yesterday called for calmness during the elections.
He said, "I make a passionate plea for all of us to vote peacefully. Indeed, peace is the cornerstone of our development. As a country, we must consolidate the development strides we have made by ensuring a free, fair, just and peaceful election. Let us send a clear message to the world, that our democracy has come of age. A peaceful vote is a vote for a secure, prosperous and stable Kenya."