Hotel that is a melting pot of EA regional integration

Wednesday March 16 2016

Namanga River Hotel on the Kenya-Tanzania

Namanga River Hotel on the Kenya-Tanzania border. PHOTO| KAMAU NGOTHO 

As we walk along the winding path to the check-in desk, we meet a group of delegates, who have been attending a regional seminar of the International Red Cross. They are drawn from the East African countries, the Great Lakes and the Horn of Africa.

Once in the dining room for a sumptuous lunch, all barriers are broken. Here, they are brothers and sisters assembled for a good cause.

A delegate from Burundi is having a hearty chat with counterpart from Rwanda as they devour their first course. None seems disturbed one bit that back home, their respective leaders are trading accusations

and counter-accusations.

It is the same case for a delegate from Ethiopia, who is happily exchanging notes with his counterpart from Eritrea as they queue for the dessert.

Later in the evening, when the hotel manager, a baby-faced young man by the name Stanley ole Leshao, joins us for a drink by the swimming pool, I ask him whether it’s merely one of those good days when

they host a regional conference.

“Not at all,” says Mr Ole Leshao. “Here, we are used to hosting guests from all over the region.”

He tells me that, besides the regional conferences, his guest list includes business people.


“Namanga being a one-stop border post, you have traders from all over the region spending a night or two on their way to their respective destinies,” he adds.

As the largest and most modern hotel in Namanga Township — it is the only one between Nairobi and Arusha with a modern swimming pool — Namanga River Hotel is the favourite stopover for the cross-

border business community.

Just outside the hotel gate, long-haul trucks line up for clearance at the border en-route to Tanzania, Zambia, Malawi and the DR Congo. Others are taking the opposite route to Nairobi, Juba, Kampala and


“If you want to know the countries of origin of most of our residents, just look at the number plates of the vehicles parked in our compound and those of the trucks at the border-point,” the manager tells me.

The hotel has another charm to it: It’s a conservationists’ paradise, with a variety of indigenous trees, some more than 500 years old. It is built on a river bank and surrounded by four hills and Mount

Kilimanjaro on a clear horizon.

The hotel is also popular for arranged game drives to the Amboseli, just nearby, and Serengeti game sanctuaries.

With a colourful history dating more than 100 years, the hotel was built as a transit camp for weary European travellers and game hunters prowling the then British East Africa (Kenya) and German East Africa


Not far away, on the Tanzanian side, is an expansive graveyard of the British and German soldiers in the First World War. Adjacent to it is a road bridge built by Italian soldiers taken prisoner in WW2.