Media reports about an alleged conflict between some Kenyan traders and Tanzanian security officers at the Namanga border post were inaccurately portrayed as a conflict between Kenya and the United Republic of Tanzania.
I feel it obligatory to make a few clarifications for accuracy.
Cross-border conflicts, especially in relation to trade, are inevitable in such a thriving business venue. The major issue is how they are resolved and to what extent our people allow them to taint an otherwise peaceful co-existence with their neighbours.
The alleged conflict was, actually, a small misunderstanding that was amplified through what was obviously sensational reporting.
A team of Tanzanian police officers, in the course of duty, had stopped three Kenyan milk sellers on the Tanzania side to authenticate their documents. They then entered the traders’ car, which was driven to the middle section of the border, known as the ‘No Man’s Land’.
They were conversing inside the car when a breakdown in communication made some Kenyans to believe that the trio had been hijacked or arrested.
The ensuing scuffle attracted the attention of Kenyan police officers, who intervened to calm tempers and handed over the traders, then deemed suspects, to the Tanzanian authorities for the due process of questioning.
The issue was soon sorted out and the three were on August 9 set free after the authorities in Longido saw no need of preferring charges against them.
The incident did not interfere with business operations in Namanga or affect cross-border movement between Tanzania and Kenya, contrary to subsequent reports of chaos and riots.
The pockets of protests in Namanga and Ilbisil on the Kenyan side were a result of further breakdown in communication with the residents thinking that the traders were in custody in Tanzania.
Contrary to the negative picture painted around the incident, the relationship between Kenya and Tanzania and the working interaction between the law enforcers of the two East African Community partner states along the border, are cordial and warm.
As we deepen regional integration for the prosperity of Kenyans and other East Africans, we need to remind ourselves that the EAC Treaty designed the integration to be people-centred and private sector-driven.
The import of this is that the citizenry must play a role, either individually or collectively, to help the integration agenda to grow while the private sector, media included, are duty-bound to lead in supporting, and even driving it, to its prosperous destination.
Dr Susan Koech, Principal Secretary (EAC), Ministry of East African Community and Regional Development.