President Uhuru Kenyatta and Ethiopia's Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed Ali today said they would re-energise historical ties laid down for the two countries by their respective founding fathers.
President Kenyatta and Mr Abiy, who was on a two day State Visit to Kenya, made the commitment when they held bilateral talks at State House, Nairobi.
The leaders said Kenya and Ethiopia, which already enjoy the highest level of diplomatic status with each other, would embark on a new drive to raise trade and diplomatic ties.
“Kenya has always considered Ethiopia to be a brother. We have collaborated from before independence where Ethiopia played a leading role in supporting Kenya gain independence,” said President Kenyatta.
He said that the special relationship between Kenya and Ethiopia, which includes a defence pact, has ensured that the two nations have maintained cordial relations despite living in a region known for turbulence.
The historical relationship the two leaders referred to was laid down by Kenya’s founding President Jomo Kenyatta and Ethiopia’s founding father Emperor Haile Selassie.
Kenya and Ethiopia have already elevated their relationship by putting in place a Bi-National Commission, which is the highest level of structured bilateral cooperation.
“It is worth noting that this is the highest level of bilateral cooperation that Kenya has with any country.
"I note that the inaugural session of the Bi-National Commission was held here in Nairobi in June 2016,” said President Kenyatta during the meeting also attended by Deputy President William Ruto.
Ethiopia is expected to host the Second Session of the bi-national commission and 36th session of the Joint Ministerial Commission this year.
President Kenyatta however noted that despite the special status agreement between the two countries, the implementation of pacts was very low.
“The general implementation of the agreement remains slow and the envisaged benefits unattained. In this regard, I wish to call for a renewed drive to ensure its effective implementation, by introducing clear timelines and deliverables in our implementation strategies,” said President Kenyatta.
The President said more efforts need to be put into ensuring that people in both countries benefit from the special relationship.
He noted that there has been some progress in facilitating movement of goods and people between the two countries.
The construction of the one-stop border post in Moyale which is complete on the Kenyan side and 95 per cent complete on the Ethiopian side was one of the achievements cited by President Kenya.
“On the development of essential infrastructure projects such as roads and railway to help facilitate smooth movement of people and goods, I wish to inform that the upgrade of the Isiolo-Moyale road to bitumen standard is complete, providing a vital link between the Port of Mombasa to the border at Moyale, and onward to Addis Ababa,” said the President.
PM Abiy echoed President Kenyatta’s words in promising commitment to advance the ties between Kenya and Ethiopia.
“We have held talks and agreed to focus on our historical ties that our forefathers built for us,” said the PM. “We are not proud of what we have been doing over the years and we have to achieve more.”
PM Abiy said the relationship his country enjoys with Kenya is the best it has with all nations.
Economy, security issues
The two leaders discussed economic and security issues.
The Lamu Port-South Sudan-Ethiopia Transport Corridor Project (Lapsset), which is envisaged to provide an alternative infrastructure corridor to the Indian Ocean, and which is on course.
They also discussed the implementation of the Power Purchase Agreement under which Kenya would import up to 400MW from Ethiopia yearly.
The two leaders also spoke on a number of shared water resources along the common border between Kenya and Ethiopia, notably the Omo River, Lake Turkana and Daua River.
The two countries have already entered into Tri-lateral framework arrangements with IGAD on the Daua River Basin and UNEP on the Lake Turkana Basin.
President Kenyatta and PM Abiy also discussed the two countries’ anti-terrorism strategy which both prioritise the stabilisation of Somalia and winning the fight against Al-Shabaab.
They discussed the need to continue pushing for adequate, predictable and sustainable funding for AMISOM forces from the United Nations assessed contributions.
The bilateral meeting, held after a lengthy tete-a-tete between the two leaders, was attended by Cabinet secretaries.