For half a century, Kenya’s foreign policy was rather ad hoc. During the Cold War, it steered West but was also reliant on the former Soviet Union for certain development assistance. This was a delicate balancing act, with the powers utilizing surrogates in the political echelons for their own purposes.
There was a certain amount of predictability in its unpredictability during those years. However, in the years since the fall of the Berlin Wall, many nations, Kenya included, have struggled to enunciate a vision of itself in the family of nations and the path it must chart to navigate the choppy waters of international relations.
In 2014, the Jubilee Government, led by President Uhuru Kenyatta, created a written foreign policy which provided a broad framework on Kenya’s foreign relations and diplomatic engagements within a contemporary globalized environment.
The vision driving Kenya’s foreign policy agenda is the pursuit of ‘A peaceful, prosperous and globally competitive Kenya’ while the mission is “To project, promote and protect Kenya’s interests and image globally through innovative diplomacy, and contribute towards a just, peaceful and equitable world”.
Kenya’s foreign policy has undergone a significant transition in response to the emerging trends in international affairs such as globalization, regional integration and security threats to new and non-conventional global peace and stability.
Several national objectives were enunciated, to protect Kenya’s sovereignty and territorial integrity, promote integration, enhance regional peace and security, advance the economic prosperity of Kenya and her people, project Kenya’s image and prestige, promote multilateralism and support the interests of the Kenyan Diaspora and partnership with the Kenyans abroad.
Over the last few years, since the writing of this document, Kenyan foreign policy has undergone a robust and important overhaul to the benefit of the nation’s standing in the world.
Over the last few years, some of the world’s most influential leaders have come to Kenya. Then US President Barack Obama, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Chinese Prime Minister Li Keqiang, former Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi, Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari, South Korean President Park Geun-hye, Turkey’s Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan and Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, to name just a few, have visited the country over the last few years.
These leaders did not come just to enjoy Kenyan hospitality, each of these visits brought massive gains for Kenya and Kenyans.
From India, Kenya secured vital medical equipment and assistance in establishing a new cancer centre at Kenyatta Hospital. Our trade agreements also allowed our farmers access to the one billion people in the Indian market, where we are exporting beans, lentils and peas.
We are working closely with the US on security and military issues which help keep Kenyans safe from the threat of terrorism.
Our cooperation with Israel includes access to their cutting-edge agricultural expertise and technology that is already transforming Kenyan agriculture in certain arid and semi-arid areas.
Through the assistance of the government of the Republic of Korea, we have received full funding for the construction of the Kenya Advanced Institute of Technology, the first anchor tenant of Konza Techno-city.
Even now, as the hectic election season is about to kick off, President Kenyatta has not ignored his international obligations.
Only a few days ago he held talks with the President of the United Nations General Assembly, Mr Peter Thomson, about the need to support the African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM), hosted and spoke at the 26th Session of the Governing Council of UN Habitat, hosted the President of Benin Patrice Talon and traveled to London to attend the Third London Conference on Somalia.
While in London, Kenyatta met with British Prime Minister Theresa May, and then headed to China to attend the Belt and Road Forum for International Cooperation.
The Kenyan Government led by President Kenyatta has hosted more international leaders, signed more international agreements and furthered Kenya’s place in the global community than any of his predecessors, all thanks to the enunciation of a clear and successful foreign policy for the first time in our nation’s history.
This has led to greater stability, peace and security, perhaps more so than any other time in Kenya’s past. This has had a direct effect on foreign investment and the continued growth of our economy. Like many of this government’s policies, its success was part of a clear vision to begin a journey of transformation, a journey which is having very clear results.
Now Kenya has a place at the top table of international relations and it will use this presence to further our interests in a variety of fields and arenas.
Kenya finally has a clear and successful foreign policy.
Michael Cherambos is a social, political and economic commentator based in Nairobi.