Kenya’s President Ruto Holds Surprise Meeting with Ugandan Counterpart Amidst Trade and Milk Controversy

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Kenya’s President William Ruto made an unexpected visit to President Museveni of Uganda, occurring just one week after Ruto had sanctioned the prevention of Ugandan milk imports. Ruto’s claims were centered on the assertion that the milk entering Uganda was sourced from external regions.

The two heads of state engaged in a confidential meeting at State House Entebbe, where they deliberated upon matters concerning trade relations between their countries and the security situation within the region.

Senior President Press Secretary, Sandor Walusimbi, conveyed that the meeting was conducted behind closed doors and encompassed discussions on bilateral concerns, trade dynamics, and regional stability. Walusimbi refrained from disclosing specific topics discussed during the meeting.

Both East African leaders refrained from divulging further details in their official statements.

The trade relationship between Uganda and Kenya has been deteriorating, sparked by Kenyan authorities’ decision to prohibit the entry of Ugandan powdered milk into their market.

In a media address in the Mt. Kenya region, President Ruto revealed that certain undisclosed Kenyan companies were exporting powdered milk to Uganda, where it was processed before re-entering the Kenyan market. Ruto expressed concerns about this practice, emphasizing the importance of maintaining a fair and balanced trade environment within the East African Community and Africa as a whole.

The blockade significantly affected companies like Brookside Limited, associated with former Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta, which had invested substantially in Uganda’s milk industry. The company experienced workforce reductions following the trade disruption.

Frank Tumwebaze, the Minister of Agriculture, Animal Industry, and Fisheries, contested allegations that Uganda imported and processed powdered milk for regional distribution. Tumwebaze highlighted that verification processes initiated by former trade ministers from both countries had found these claims baseless.

In January 2023, President Ruto conveyed a message, delivered by his Cabinet Secretary for Investment, Trade, and Industry, Moses Kuria, permitting free access of Ugandan milk and poultry products to the Kenyan market. President Museveni appreciated this gesture, acknowledging Ruto’s role in enhancing trade relations.

Despite prior concerns about Ugandan milk being blocked in Kenya, Museveni underscored the importance of avoiding retaliatory measures for the betterment of regional development.

In recent months, tension escalated as Kenyan authorities imposed a blockage on Ugandan milk. Additionally, both Uganda and Kenya deployed troops to eastern DR Congo to engage with the Congolese government and M23 rebels, striving to end ongoing conflict.

During a recent weekend, President Museveni and Uhuru held discussions with M23 leaders at State House in Entebbe as part of the EAC-led peace process in DR Congo.

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