The Government on Wednesday sought to explain why Tanzania was left out of a meeting on the planned regional oil pipeline, saying the issues involved only Kenya and Uganda.
State House Spokesman Manoah Esipisu told reporters in Nairobi that Tanzania was isolated deliberately because it had nothing to do with the issues on the agenda.
“Monday meeting was bilateral. As you know we had also invited oil companies but they did not participate in the bilateral meeting,” he told journalists.
The two countries agreed to meet again in two weeks after Energy ministry officials from Nairobi and Kampala had finished assessing the viability of various pipeline routes.
Asked to comment on the status of relations between Kenya and Tanzania, Mr Esipisu said the relations were “good, never been better.”
On Wednesday, however, Tanzanian officials barred Kenya’s Energy Cabinet Secretary Charles Keter and his team from entering the Port in Tanga while waving on their Ugandan colleagues, suggesting retaliation from Dar for being snubbed at the Monday meeting.
Sources said the Tanzanian Civil Aviation Authority officials were unhappy about Kenya’s refusal to invite them to Lamu, or even failing to invite them to the Nairobi talks, although Uganda had already signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) with Dar to start constructing the pipeline.
Usually, an MoU is simply an agreement between two parties but does not bind them to stick to its provisions.
Kenya too had a similar MoU with Uganda in 2014 on the construction of the pipeline but there were no specific dates .
Though the officials, whose passports had initially been confiscated, were later allowed to leave the country, sources said the Kenyan diplomatic mission in Dar had been tasked to make an official inquiry about the incident.
Diplomatic sources said Kenya was planning to protest the apparent violation of the East African Community laws on free movement of people, even though Tanzania has argued it had no prior information the officials would be travelling to Tanga.
Kenya would be relying on the fact that no concrete agreement had been signed between Kampala and Dar.
As Mr Keter and his group were being barred from the Port, the Ugandan delegation led by Irene Muloni, the Energy Minister, were being shown a presentation on the advantages of routing the pipeline through Tanzania.
This is the second time Kenya and Tanzania are getting embroiled in a trade feud.
Last year, Kenya banned Tanzanian tour vans from accessing the Jomo Kenyatta International Airport in Nairobi, in retaliation to a similar move in Dar es Salaam.
The Tanzanian Civil Authority reacted by reducing the frequency of Kenya airways flights between Kenya and Tanzanian airports.
Normally, KQ flies 42 times every week into Tanzania but these were reduced to 14.
The issue was resolved after a meeting between President Uhuru Kenyatta and his then Tanzanian counterpart Jakaya Kikwete.