Dar es Salaam: Traders between Mozambique and Tanzania can now have an easy access to either side’s markets following the official opening of the unity bridge connecting the two countries. The bridge across Ruvuma River was inaugurated yesterday by Presidents Jakaya Kikwete and Armando Guebuza at a colourful ceremony observed on both sides of the border.
The two leaders directed their authorities to hasten the setting up of security and immigration offices at the border post to make the bridge more useful. Mr Kikwete went farther by suggesting the formation of a 'One stop Centre' to reduce disturbances to travellers, as people would only be checked at one point when crossing the border.
'We need all the authorities to start working immediately so that citizens can start to enjoy the fruits of this bridge, rather than staying for years without benefiting from it,' said President Kikwete.
Construction of the 720m long and 13.8m wide Umoja Bridge started in January 2005 under a Chinese company, M/S China Geo Engineering Corporation. It was estimated to cost Sh34 billion which was to paid by the two governments. Former presidents Ali Hassan Mwinyi and Benjamin William Mkapa were among hundreds of people who witnessed the colourful function.
President Kikwete said the bridge was the outcome of efforts by two founding fathers, the late Mwalimu Julius Kambarage Nyerere of Tanzania and late Samora Machel of Mozambique. They had come up with the idea of constructing it soon after Mozambique was liberated. He congratulated President Mkapa and former Mozambique president Joachim Chissano for the efforts they put to ensure that the two countries finance the project after efforts to look for donors failed.
'The two countries are very poor to implement such big projects but this daring move has proved that we can implement may big projects together,' said President Kikwete.
He noted that both presidents were in the last years of their terms in office; so their daring decision proved how they were committed to their national interests. But, he continued to say, now that the bridge has been opened for public use, there was a need to have plans and strategies targeting increased trade and investments in not only these two countries but other eastern and southern countries as well.
President Guebuza said the inauguration of the Umoja Bridge was a milestone because the dream of the founders of the two nations has been realised. 'The bridge was a dream of presidents Nyerere and Machel, but it connects people who are blood-related, and living apart,' said President Guebuza.
He said the liberation struggle in the southern part of Africa led to the formation of the Southern African Development Community (SADC) which would benefit a lot from the Umoja bridge.
He congratulated Tanzania for its assistance during the Mozambican liberation struggle. To cherish the assistance, he said, Tanzania was mentioned in Frelimo’s manifesto.
The minister for Infrastructure Development, Dr Shukuru Kawambwa, said the biggest challenge to both countries now was to make sure that roads leading to the bridge were paved. 'Only five kilometers have been paved on each side of the bridge. The biggest challenge is also to maintain the bridge,' said Dr Kawambwa.