- Kenyatta holds private talks with Paul Kagame and later Yoweri Museveni.
- Rwanda and Uganda dispute threatens intra-EAC trade after Kigali closed border.
By HELLEN GITHAIGA
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Kenya's President Uhuru Kenyatta made brief visits to Uganda and Rwanda on Monday amid long-running disputes between the two countries that has now threatened cross-border trade.
Mr Kenyatta held private talks, first, with Rwanda's President Paul Kagame before addressing the country's national leadership retreat in Gabiro, where he emphasised on the importance of integration.
His next stop, before his return trip to Nairobi, was at State House in Entebbe where he met President Yoweri Museveni.
President Kenyatta's visit comes on the back of Mr Kagame's two-day trip to Tanzania, seen as a quest to firm up relations with Dar es Salaam and secure a trade route from the sea.
Rwanda, a small landlocked country, is served by two major transport corridors — the Central Corridor that runs from Dar es Salaam through Tanzania’s heartland, and the Northern Corridor that runs from Mombasa through Kenya and Uganda.
About 80 percent of Rwanda’s import cargo is handled through the Dar port, but its major exports — minerals, tea and coffee — go through Uganda to the port of Mombasa.
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However, souring of relations between Kigali and Kampala have been simmering for years now, and worsened late last month when Rwanda closed the Gatuna border post, its busiest.
In Gabiro, President Kenyatta said Kenya's relationship with Rwanda "is probably the best" adding that: "The more we meet, the more we interact, the better we integrate as a people."
He urged for more engagement among the citizens of the two countries.
"As governments, we have been able to achieve so much. We have made it easier for our people and goods to move across our borders. We have created linkages in ICTs and in other areas," Mr Kenyatta said.
While acknowledging existing challenges within the East African Community member states, he called on leaders to work together to resolve them.
"It is true that we are faced with some challenges as neighbours and as a region. Through goodwill and good intentions, we will be able to resolve these challenges," he said.
President Kagame said Mr Kenyatta was a true friend of Rwanda.
"You know you can have a brother who is not your friend. In President Kenyatta, I have a brother who is also a friend," Mr Kagame said.
In Uganda, Presidents Museveni and Kenyatta discussed bilateral and regional issues, according to a statement from State House Entebbe.
-Additional reporting by Ivan R. Mugisha.
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