Only a border lies between inseparable ‘Siamese twins’

Monday July 17 2017

An administration police officer assists a traveller to fill out his travel form at the Malaba

An administration police officer assists a traveller to fill out a travel form at the Malaba immigration office on July 7, 2012. Uganda is still a big trading partner of Kenya — and a twin brother too. FILE PHOTO | TOM OTIENO NATION MEDIA GROUP 

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There can be diplomatic disagreements, Kampala and Nairobi may have a few bones of contention once in a while, but the cord cannot be cut.

One is the volume of trade.


Mombasa is an important name to a Kampala trader: from vehicles, to every other tiny commodity, everything comes through the Kenyan port.

At most Ugandan secondary schools and universities Kiswahili is present, thanks to student exchange.

The Kalenjin community in Kenya extends to Uganda; a Sabiny needs no interpreter to speak with Kenya’s Deputy President William Samoei Ruto.

The Samia, found in the two countries, make free entries and exits in Busia, with some living in a dilemma on whether to belong in Kenya or Uganda.

Former Kenyan Vice-President Moody Awori reigned when his younger brother Aggrey Awori was running for president in Uganda.

He became a Cabinet minister.

The Luhya community in Kenya has dialectical similarities with Uganda’s Bantu communities, further pointing to the inseparability of the two nations.

Then there is the Teso community — which can only be distinguished from their Ugandan brothers by location but have every other similarity in culture and language.

Between Uganda and Kenya however, is a long running superiority battle.

If it is concealed by officials through diplomacy, the citizens keep the rivalry open, often taking to social media to prove who is superior.
A dispute over a tiny rocky island of Migingo has taken forever to resolve, featuring prominently in Kenya’s presidential debate in 2013, when then-presidential candidate Paul Muite said he would use the military to enforce Kenya’s sovereign right over the one-acre territory.

Immediately after the elections of 2007, Uganda’s President Yoweri Museveni stood accused by Kenyan opposition leaders of direct interference in the polls.

Supporters of opposition leader Raila Odinga allegedly uprooted the railway to Uganda, sparking off an economic crisis.

Uganda is Kenya’s landlocked brother but, in terms of the social intercourse, Nairobi — or Kampala — is just a bus ride away or, for the elite, 45 minutes by air.

In early 2017, the Kenya National Bureau of Statistics reported a decline by 20 per cent of Kenya’s exports to Uganda, ceding ground to similar goods from China.

Nevertheless, Uganda is still a big trading partner of Kenya’s — and a twin brother too.