On Kenya’s diplomatic delusion

So far the ICC question has been the singular preoccupation of the Kenyatta administration. It appears that the Kenyan government is willing to pull out all the stops to halt the cases against the president and his deputy. Sadly, instead of a sober approach to the process of doing so, Nairobi has chosen to antagonize both the Hague Court and the West.

As I have argued before, Kenya has leverage vis-a-vis the West (security in the Horn and Somalia in particular; its status as host to regional diplomatic and aid efforts; and role as the biggest economy and potential gateway to the region) that it can use in a smart way to get concessions from Washington, London and Paris on key issues. Rather than wish for a restructured P5 (see post below), Nairobi should think of how to get its way with the current one.

Instead of the misguided chest-thumping about hollow sovereignty in a Chinese built conference hall in Addis under the banner of an organization partly funded by the EU, Nairobi could have chosen a different path.

Writing in the Daily Nation, Paul Mwangi, in a nutshell describes what is wrong with Kenya’s current approach to international diplomacy (Must read, more here):

The reality is that gone are the days when we were the “island of peace” in an unpredictable and violent part of the world. Over time, the world around us has changed, but we are yet to wake up and smell the coffee. Ethiopia is no longer in civil war and is quickly becoming a better investment opportunity for manufacturers both due to the low price of its electricity and the size of its population, about 90 million people. It is one of the fastest-growing economies in the world.

Tanzania is no longer socialist and is now the darling of America. Apart from its own vast mineral, oil and gas deposits, Tanzania is the new gateway to the DRC and is receiving mammoth investment from both China and America. China is building what is being called a “mega port” for Tanzania at Bagamoyo, which is more than 30 times the size of Mombasa, as part of a $10 billion investment package for Tanzania. When completed, it is bound to take away all central Africa business from Mombasa port, which will be left to serve only Kenya and Uganda.

……. Let us stop comparing ourselves with other countries. The painful truth is that Kenya is not Syria. In the Middle East, Syria is the only foothold for China and Russia. The rest of the countries are either fundamentalist or pro-Western. In Africa, China and Russia are spoilt for even better choices.

They will only go so far to help us out [Indeed some have started asking of the Afro-Chinese engagement has peaked].

The complete madness lack of tact that Mr. Mwangi points out will no doubt be on display this afternoon as the National Assembly debates Kenya-UK relations (Recently Kenyan MPs allied to the president have chosen to prove their loyalty by taking extreme positions on the ICC issue). This comes in the wake of the UK’s support of an amendment of the ICC statutes to allow President Kenyatta and his deputy to attend their trials via video-link; and stated opposition to granting sitting presidents full immunity from any prosecution under international law while in office as has been demanded by Kenya. The hurdle remains high for the Kenyan (AU) amendment proposals to the Assembly of Member States, especially after it emerged that 9 African states may not be illegible to vote on account of not having paid their dues.

According to a recent poll, 67% of Kenyans are of the opinion that President Kenyatta should attend trial at the Hague in person to clear his name.

5 thoughts on “On Kenya’s diplomatic delusion

  1. Its good that this site denies these opinions as the writers own but it is sad that it offers a platform to tribal vitriol that could easily destabilize Kenya and lead to chaos. please act more responsibly for the lives of millions of Kenyans that could be affected by your decision to publish this kind of biased and poison pen writing. unless you would also host the Koran burning Pastor.


  2. Vow, you really worship the west. But we know better, this is a world of self interest. Britain has decided the best way to regain its hold on Kenya is to defeat Jubilee Government or are you kidding yourself they want justice for PEV. They were very supportive of the ’40 against One’ campaign of six years ago. But then people like you are consumed by tribalism and have the power to blogger delusional views.


  3. Munuve ndugu, you are right that the West are driven by nothing but self interest. You are also partially right that the trials at the Hague are only tangentially about justice for the victims of PEV. What you are missing is an understanding of why I support the ICC process. It is about deterring future Railas, Uhurus, Rutos, Kalonzos, Mudavadis and Kibakis from settling their political feuds by having people kill each other. It is about makung Kenyan and African leaders know that they are not above the law.

    For the sake of Kenya I am hoping for acquittals. But the trials must go on. Kenyans need to face the reality of what we did to each other over the PEV.

    Also, I do not worship the West. I am as proud a Kenyan as can be.


  4. The current undiplomatic voice of our politicians, is against Kenya’s interest. We don’t exist as an island. For the sake of ordinary Kenyans, our economy etc, we cannot antagonize the whole world, so while all other countries (UK, US, China, Russia) are looking after their own interests, Kenya’s politicians are looking after their own and not Kenya’s.


  5. If Kenya thinks that Russia and China will push hard to help it’s politicians, then they also are missing one other key problem. Kenya is not in the Middle East. Note that the United States, which normally has at least some standards, is very close to such a dictatorial state as Saudi Arabia. The reason for this is simple. Oil. The Middle East is, even now, still vital to the global economy. It’s true that oil and gas can be found in Africa, but Iran and Saudi Arabia are far greater points in oil politics. Times might be changing, but the Middle East still could bring down the global economy if its oil stopped being produced. Kenya and Africa can’t say the same (note that the USSR and USA never threatened total war over anything in Africa).

    And security? True, Kenya still has value to other nations because of where it is, but this article points out that Kenya is no longer a sole island of stability in a sea of war and religious fervor. Russia and China both dislike militant political Islam, but neither is a superpower that focuses on the entire world and so will fight tooth and nail to support Kenya. Russia and China are going to focus on the Middle East, Central Asia and Southeast Asia over militant Muslim groups, they aren’t going to look at the Horn of Africa. Besides, it’s not as though Kenya can just choose to stop fighting groups like Al-Shabaab.

    So all Kenya has to convince Russia and China to back it is the argument of state sovereignty, which has some strength but is harmed by the fact that Kenya willingly chose to sign a treaty and committed itself to follow the terms of the treaty. China (and I’m mostly speaking of China because I see little in Russia to make me think it’s going to be stable any time soon) is flexing more muscles on the international arena these days, but I don’t think that it’s going to go to the wall for Kenya, especially not when even at home Kenyans seem divided over the issue.


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