Hailemariam, Kenyatta Partner to Shine Through

For the past few decades Kenya has been emerging as the most powerful nation economically among Eastern African nations, as well as the Horn of Africa (HoA).

Specifically, after the independence of most African nations from the colonial era, Kenya has been maintaining a relatively better position in terms of political stability, economic performance and infrastructure, as well as in the investment and tourism sectors, though it remains one of the poorest nations in the continent and the world.

As compared to Ethiopia, Kenya has been considered a more favorable nation in terms of investment and business as it avails its economic policy more liberally.

Kenya, with a population of almost half of Ethiopia’s, has opened its doors to foreign investment, offering most of the very important sectors. Meanwhile, Ethiopia still remains resistant in its economical and investment policy in some areas such as telecom, banking, finance, aviation, and railway sectors.

Despite the existing tight policy in terms of the liberalization of some sectors, Ethiopia has been emerging as a center of growing foreign investment and FDI following the unprecedented economic growth it has seen for the past eight consecutive years. In fact, the scale of economic growth remains debatable between the government’s claim of double digit growth and the World Bank and IMF who argue that it is in single digit.

Among external observers and pundits, Ethiopia’s recent achievement in economic growth prompts to compare Ethiopia and Kenya, some are trying to compare the two neighboring nations present overall performance in terms of their infrastructure developments, service, industrialization, hotel and tourism activities.

In fact, in the international arena, Ethiopia and Kenya are seen for their bitter rivalry in athletics, both countries being regarded as “the land of long distance winners.”

But recently the views toward these nations has turned to another dimension – a march to be the economic powerhouse of the Eastern part of the continent and politically the move to be “the most influential in the HoA.”

There are some other analysts who tend to argue that these neighboring nations are “battling to be the most strategic nation and best ally” to the west, particularly the US and Britain.

But the leaders of these two nations have come to react in the opposite manner of all the views of external observers.

The visiting Kenyan leader, Uhuru Kenyatta and Ethiopian Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn have come out and publicly dismissed the entire claim that the two nations are competing with each other. They instead declared that they are complementary to each other.

“I see our partnership with Ethiopia is not a competition but complimentary, what seeks the prosperity of our peoples. We have respectively comparative aantage,” President Kenyatta told journalists at the press conference at the National Palace.

Similarly, PM Hailemariam reiterated his Kenyan counterpart’s remark saying “we are not competitors. We rather are complimentary. Being partners, Ethiopia and Kenya are competing together with the global nations in the fields of trade and investment.”

Besides sharing the same boarder, the two countries’ relationships in the past five decades have been moving forward. Emperor Hailesilasssie I and Jomo Kenyatta had tried crafting a close relationship of their peoples. It was relatively similar during the time of Col. Mengestu Hailemariam and Kenya’s Arap Moi. Similarly, their relationships kept going under the rule of the late PM Meles Zenawi and Mwai Kibaki.

Unlike before, the two nations are said to embark to tighten their relationship more towards even closer to unify them.

PM Hailemariam, 49, and Kenyatta 52, currently reveal their nations are the key members of the region’s block, the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD). They take the lion’s share in forming and implementing the framework of IGAD. In addition, to the existing bilateral relationship and border ties, this regional block itself contributes to the growing closer relation of the two leaders as well as their respective nations.

This week the Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta has paid a three-day state visit for the first time since he was elected as president.

Along with PM Hailemariam, he described his visit to be mainly to uplift the relationship of the two countries to a higher level.

“It’s an opportunity to renew our g, historical partnership, which is more than just a relationship between our two great nations. A partnership that withstood a test of time, which has existed prior to Kenya’s independence” Kenyatta said.

Both leaders said they met to fast track the implementation of the Special Status Agreement between the two nations, which will open the door for increased economic activities, both trade and investment between the two countries.

Apart from the “partnership” between Ethiopia and Kenya, the two leaders did not shy away from boasting that they could be pivotal to pacifying the troubled-hit Horn to ensure peace and stability. They even claim to turn the bad image of this volatile part of the continent into an investment and tourism destination.

“We Ethiopia and Kenya can be pillars to the Horn of Africa together to pacify the region,” Hailemariam went on to adding “we are working very closely on pacifying the region – be it in Somalia or South Sudan.” Hailemariam further indicated that he and Kenyatta have discussed “in depth to organize ourselves to make this region an investment and tourism destination.”

“We will work to expedite the IGAD framework with other East African nations,” the PM added.

Among all sorts of discussion agendas, high on the table was the economic and political integration of the two nations, which is one of the main areas of agreed priorities on their bill – Special Status Agreement – that was initiated first by the former Kenyan president, Mwai Kibaki, and the late PM, Meles Zenawi, in 2011. The agreement was signed by Kibaki and Hailemariam in Nairobi in 2012. The agreement was made shortly after Hailemariam assumed the premiership and it was his first-ever state visit to a foreign country as PM. (This bill was presented before the House of Peoples’ Rrepresentatives this week for approval so that implantation would then begin.)

“We now have important projects that are very pivotal for our efforta to integrate our two nations and peoples,” Hailemariam elaborated.

Both leaders stressed that the political and economic integration is envisaged be realized through infrastructural development such as power interconnection, telecom interconnections, road transport, and railway transport as well as through trade and investment.

Economic Development Corridor is part of the agreement whereby parts of land are dedicated to economic development in Kenya as well as Ethiopia, comprising trade investment infrastructure, food security and sustainable livelihoods projects and programs.

The two leaders noted that the rapport between Kenya and Ethiopia had contributed to the progress achieved in the execution of the region’s largest infrastructure project – the Lamu Port and Southern Sudan-Ethiopia Transport (LAPSSET) corridor.

Given the importance of the Special Status Agreement in boosting economic ties between Kenya and Ethiopia, President Kenyatta and Prime Minister Hailemariam directed their relevant ministers to hasten its implementation.

Unlike their budding relationship in terms of security and regional issues, the prevailing trade and investment relations among these nation remains still not worth mentioning.

Even the said existing trade and investment ties are characterized by small volumes and a wider gap in which the balance is tilted to the Kenyan side.

Whether Hailemariam or Kenyatta mentioned so or not, the two countries have a long way to go to boost their weak trade and investment relations.

It was said that the two countries are determined to increase trade and investment and Kenyatta indicated his visit to Addis Ababa was to get both nations’ business communities in discussion to partner in areas of trade and investment.

As part of the regional integration of the continent linking through transport, Kenya’s port Lamu is one the most hopeful and ambitious projects that has been planned to be the top priority area for Ethiopia and Kenya as well as South Sudan’s economic activities. The construction project port Lamu attracted world top financial institutions including the World Bank and the IMF.

Common enemy that caused a darling friendship

More importantly, these two leaders share a similar pain that has forced them to stay alert day and night, has left them sleepless, and made them keep their eyes and ears open twenty-four hours. They face a common enemy and common threat and have been the target of Somalia’s Al-Shabaab, designated terrorist group. Both nations are engaged in fighting to destroy this terrorist group while the group is never deterred from bombing these two nations on every possible occasion. Looking at the extent of Al-Shabaab’s threat and insurgency, some observers argue that their common enemy is a factor for the two leaders’ growing relationship (friendship).

As numerous politicians and commentators say, “There is no lasting friendship, there is only sustainable aantage.”

Ethiopia and Uganda were once closer than Ethiopia and Kenya. Both the Kenyan government and Ethiopia’s government have been equally taking part in their own role in the efforts to take out Somalia from more than 20 years of civil war and internal conflict. Each country has been responding to the demand of Somalia’s quest of establishing a central government and restoring rule of law individually and collectively with other IGAD member states.

Still, Hailemariam and Kenyatta keep extending their role to the region by a fast response to the recent crisis in the recently born South Sudan, the outbreak of violence between the government and the defected opposition group of SPLM.

They keep taking the leadership of responding and seeking solutions to crisis and conflicts in the already troubled Horn of Africa. Of course Hailemariam has been boldly confronted by the world in defending his fellow Kenyan president against the indictment of the International Criminal Court (ICC) which issued an arrest warrant over Kenyatta and his Deputy, William Ruto, requesting that both leaders face trial before the ICC in the Hague over the deadly violence in the 2007 post election in Kenya that claimed the death of over 1000 civilians.

Last year, Hailemariam, who was also the chairman of the African Union, was criticizing the ICC for the “biased and racist and for discriminately hunting of Africans.” Hailemariam’s comment was also promptly taken as “harsh” and displeased some westerners, especially considering Ethiopia is a close ally of the West where it’s the top aid recipient country to the US and Britain next to Egypt.

The PM also echoed firmly “the collective voice of Africa in calling on the UN and the UN Peace and Security Council to put pressure against the ICC for the withdrawal of its indictment over Kenyan leaders as well as other African leaders.”

Source : The Reporter

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