Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta on Monday visited Rwanda and Uganda and held private talks with Presidents Paul Kagame and Yoweri Museveni.
Mr Kenyatta began with Rwanda and then briefly stopped at State House in Entebbe, Uganda, on his way back to Nairobi.
The talks were on the backdrop of a diplomatic row between Rwanda and Uganda, over claims that Uganda country has supported rebels opposed to the government in Kigali, a claim firmly rebutted by Kampala.
The row pushed Rwanda to close one of its busiest borders with Uganda and Dicksons Kateshumbwa, the Commissioner for Customs at the Uganda Revenue Authority, said Kenya was one of the parties affected.
In President Kagame’s country, Mr Kenyatta said Kenya’s relationship with Rwanda “is probably the best” and urged more mutually beneficial engagements.
He said this good relationship can become better and more beneficial through people-to-people interactions.
The President also noted that the two nations have achieved much together in recent years and challenged the people to engage more.
“The more we meet, the more we interact, the better we integrate as a people,” he said at the Rwanda Defence Forces (RDF) Combat Training Centre in Gabiro, where he addressed more than 500 top government and private sector officials.
“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.”
President Kenyatta further said he was impressed by the national leadership retreat concept and promised to consider replicating it in Kenya.
The annual event brings together leaders from all sectors of the Rwandan economy for discussions on development programmes.
While citing Rwanda’s top rank in the World Bank’s ease of doing business index, Mr Kenyatta noted that the country rose from the devastation of war into a robust economy and a model of progress in Africa.
“I am proud of how Rwanda has emerged from the challenges of its past into a model economy. Rwanda is one of Africa’s shining stars,” he said.
On regional integration, President Kenyatta acknowledged challenges and called on leaders to work together on solutions.
“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.
He added: “We need to connect more. Rwanda alone … Kenya alone will not make it but together we have tremendous potential to succeed.”
President Kagame thanked President Kenyatta for agreeing to speak at the retreat, saying the Kenyan leader 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,” he said.