Burundi President Evariste Ndayishimiye is expected in Nairobi on Monday in a two-day state visit to Nairobi, marking the first time in nearly a decade that a Burundian leader will tour Kenya.
A statement from State House said the Burundian leader and First Lady Angeline Ndayubaha will join President Uhuru Kenyatta in Kisumu and take part in Madaraka Day celebrations as the guest of honour.
The trip will mark Ndayishimiye’s continued opening up, a policy that runs counter to his predecessor Pierre Nkurunziza who died last year without making a foreign trip in five years. Nkurunziza had faced a coup attempt on his last visit to Dar es Salaam.
Ndayishimiye has made four foreign trips already, including a state visit to Equatorial Guinea, a visit to Tanzania, and Uganda, just eight months after he took over.
A dispatch seen by the Nation said Kenya and Burundi will use the occasion to discuss “strategic cooperation”, starting with their membership in the East African Community.
Various bilateral agreements which have been pending for the last five years are also likely to be signed.
“Burundi remains an important trade partner to Kenya with the balance of trade is in favour of Kenya. There is immense untapped potential to expand trade relations between our two countries in terms of both value and volume,” a dispatch on the visit says, indicating the intent to seek more markets for Kenyan investors in Burundi.
Kenyan firms such as KCB Bank, Diamond Trust Bank and Jubilee Insurance already operate in the country, besides routine flights to Bujumbura by Kenya Airways.
Officials also suggested they will ened Burundi on board as Kenya seeks a wider network to the Democratic Republic of Congo. An applicant to join the East African Community, the DRC is awaiting a decision, but will need closer cooperation with neighbours such as Burundi, Rwanda and Uganda to enable a seamless market, officials in Nairobi said.
“Burundi is an important key player in terms of promotion of regional economic growth. Bujumbura is recognised as the regional hub and entry point to Eastern DRC and the hinterland of the greater central Africa region.
“Eastern DRC border towns of Uvira, Bukavu and Goma are easily accessible and they receive most of their supplies from Burundi,” says a brief seen by the Nation.
Other key issues
Sources told the Nation on Friday that the two sides will also discuss wildlife conservation, including routine relocation of endangered species under a mutually agreeable programme.
Burundi, once sent its Chimpanzees in 1995, at the heart of its civil war to Kenya. The new administration has asked for their return.
Other issues on the table include resident permit fees, which Burundi still charges Kenyans despite an existing protocol on free movement of people.
A former rebel leader in the National Council for the Defence of Democracy (CNDD), a Hutu-led movement, Ndayishimiye rose through military ranks once the war ended in 2002 to becoming the Deputy Chief of Defence Forces.
CNDD later changed to CNDD-FDD (Forces for the Defence of Democracy).
Nkurunziza’s party nominated Ndayishimiye to run for the presidency after he completed his controversial third term. The former Burundian leader died before Ndayishimiye was sworn in last year.