As Kenya celebrated the 60th Jamhuri Day celebrations on Tuesday undertones of a sorry state of East African Community affairs also gained dominance if the absence of the neighbouring presidents was anything to go by.
With the warm partnerships and camaraderie the nations in East Africa share, it is customary for Heads of State to grace each other’s major national occasions like the Jamhuri Day fete.
Contrary to the habitual script, three presidents were a no-show on Tuesday opting to send their representatives.
Notably, presidents Yoweri Museveni (Uganda), Samia Suluhu (Tanzania), Evariste Ndayishimiye (Burundi) and Paul Kagame (Rwanda) were a no-show. The only presidents who accepted the invite were Sahle-Work Zewde (Ethiopia) and Hussein Mwinyi (Zanzibar).
Other leaders included Burundi’s Vice President Prosper Bazombanza and Uganda’s first deputy Prime Minister Rebecca Kadaga.
President Mwinyi attended on behalf of President Suluhu, noting that her absence was due to the harsh floods that are affecting the northern part of the nation.
Museveni’s presence was represented by Ms. Kadaga who said that the president just “was not able to attend”.
For neighboring presidents to snub such a monumental day in Kenya’s history, it pokes holes into the sturdiness of the so-termed firm relationship between President William Ruto and his regional counterparts.
President Suluhu once remarked at a public Islamic function in Zanzibar that investors were now picking Tanzania as their preferred investment hub after seeing that the ‘neighbours were on fire’.
“Kati ya mwezi wa May na Juni, tumepokea wawekezaji wengi mno. Lakini ukitizama sababu ni nini. Sababu ni kwamba kwa jirani kunawaka moto…” she said during Kenya’s heightened anti-government protests.
In the same, breath President Museveni cut reliance on Kenya for importation of its petroleum products in November and contracted bulk and refinery suppliers to obtain lower-cost petroleum products.
At the time, Uganda was importing more than 90% of its petroleum products through the Port of Mombasa in Kenya and the rest through the Dar es Salaam Port in Tanzania.
President Museveni said that Uganda had been sourcing the same products from middlemen in Kenya at exorbitant prices, exacerbating the country’s fuel crisis.
“Without my knowledge, our wonderful People were buying this huge quantity of petroleum products from middlemen in Kenya,” Museveni wrote on X.
“A whole country buying from middlemen in Kenya or anywhere else!! Amazing but true.”
He added that it is more cost-effective for Uganda to purchase from refineries abroad and transport the product to Uganda via Kenya and Tanzania.
This also comes in the wake of heaped censures against Kenya, East Africa’s powerhouse, over its collapsing economy and poor national governance.
With the ongoing flow and ebb in Kenya’s state of affairs, it now remains unclear whether neighbouring presidents will honors invites in subsequent national celebrations or keep on sending representatives.