Zuma, Kenyatta meeting aimed to break the ice

President Zuma’s state visit to meet with President Kenyatta marked the first by a sitting South African president. (Photo: Reuters)

President Zuma’s state visit to meet with President Kenyatta marked the first by a sitting South African president. (Photo: Reuters)

Regional trade and security topped the agenda of President Jacob Zuma’s first state visit to Kenya ­earlier this week as South Africa seeks stronger business and diplomatic ties with the East African economic hub.

Zuma’s two-day state visit marked the first by a sitting South African president in an attempt by the two African powerhouses to thaw historically frosty relations between them.

Some of the agreements signed between Zuma and President Uhuru Kenyatta include one on military training, visits and technical assistance between military personnel from the two countries.

South Africa and Kenya hold pivotal positions in their respective regions, which have seen the two being drawn into recent regional conflicts through mediation and, in the case of Kenya in Somalia, direct military involvement.

“We have noted with great concern the challenges posed by terrorism and extremist groups that continue to affect some of our countries on the continent and reiterate the need for joint regional and ­continental efforts towards countering these negative elements,” said Zuma.

South African Police Minister Nathi Nhleko signed an agreement with his Kenyan counterpart on police co-operation.

A similar pact was signed by the trade ministers of the two countries on partnerships in customs administrations.

“President Zuma and I also agreed to broaden our counterterrorism partnership, to focus on new areas such as cybersecurity, the financing of terrorism and stemming radicalisation,” Kenyatta told journalists at Nairobi’s State House on Tuesday afternoon.

But Kenya failed to get a commitment on a blanket visa waiver for Kenyans travelling to South Africa, as had been hoped.

In 2013 South Africa introduced new visa application restrictions, including a nonrefundable fee of $90, a seven-day waiting period and a requirement that applicants should submit bank statements for the past six months and proof of their employment.

Several Kenyan senators have demanded “reciprocal” visa requirements on South Africans visiting Kenya.

Currently, South Africans visiting the country are not required to obtain a visa when staying for less than 30 days and can get one at the airport if they are staying for longer.

Zuma said South Africa is looking at the proposals of waiving the visa requirement, although he could not give a commitment on whether it would be adopted.

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