It was during these trying times that President Uhuru Kenyatta was to design, lead and exercise his newly documented Kenya Foreign Policy document of November 2014.
The Kenya Foreign Policy (2014) and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Trade Strategic Plan 2013/14 – 2017/18 aptly captured the country’s new foreign policy imperatives as building bridges for peace, international cooperation, global competitiveness and shared national prosperity.
In these two blueprints, the fundamental thrust of Kenya’s foreign policy were for the first time since Independence given a detailed and expansive forte and substance, far beyond what was hitherto taken at face value — that Kenya sought to claim, defend and expand her international diplomatic sphere and space, regardless of her former partners, allies and supporters, in a newly multi-dimensional and multi-polar world.
It would be devoid of ideological divides obtaining and existing hitherto, to claim her rightful place, and share she deserves in her search for national prosperity. This explains President Uhuru’s oft-repeated phraseology, “Aligned to progress and development, mutual respect and reciprocity, in recognition to a multiplicity of voices and opinions in the international diplomatic arena.”
There is also an emphasis on building peace bridges across the globe and in particular in the region and continent and enhancing reciprocity in international cooperation, including fair trade and technology transfer.
Also, Kenya is for strengthening bilateral and multilateral relations to improve and protect peace and security and to ensure internal and international stability.
Still unresolved and simmering was the upsurge of terrorist attacks in Kenya and the Horn of Africa, spurred on by forceful, brutal and cunning al-Shabaab terror network, which operates inside and outside the country. It also enjoys material and financial support from a global terror network Al Qaeda.
Into this mix was the unrelenting below the surface bare-knuckle and consternation within the ruling Jubilee Coalition parties over leadership and dominance, and a combined hostile and unrelenting opposition coalition under the leadership of CORD principals former Prime Minister Raila Odinga, former Vice President Kalonzo Musysoka and Senator Moses Wetangula, both former Foreign ministers.
Andrew Morton, a British author, in his 1999 biography of former President Moi, The Making of an African Statesman, asserts that the British intelligence had kept a watchful eye on Kenya’s development as indeed captured by the United States first Ambassador to Kenya Mark Artwood in his book, The Reds and the Blacks, which chronicles the Western world’s and specifically, the US’s extensive intelligence gathering network in Kenya then, and still extends to date.
When the Uhuru team won the highly contested and controversial election, the sour mood and mindset, negative-profiling and general diplomatic distancing of the West to the new President’s administration was a rule than an exception.
The compliment was returned in due course when President Uhuru showed no hurried signs of warming up to the US, the UK, Germany, France, Italy and the European Union, preferring to meet with diplomats from China, India, Brazil and African countries.
The security-cum-terrorist scare coupled with rapidly escalating criminal gang networks in many parts of the country forced President Uhuru’s hand, and he threw his weight behind the building of a functional military-security sector, which included weapons/equipment and training, pursuing and supporting tough pro-security positions and views at the international arena.
By the time the Foreign Policy Paper of November 2014, President’s Uhuru administration was firmly anchored and embedded in the Western sphere of influence.
But soon after, and in subsequent local and international for an including the African Union, President Uhuru increasingly articulated a more independent and decidedly anti-West position to the utter dismay of Kenya’s traditional parties, allies and supporters. He called for greater respect for other nations’ views and positions, remarkably stating that those countries used to have their views heard over and above those of others must remember there is only one view of many that exists in a multi-polar world.
However, Kenya’s international relations and conduct of diplomacy and indeed its trade and economic, and security-cum-military posture has for generations been beholden to the West and has remained ever so with varying degrees but with no definite guarantee that this state of affairs will continue to be unchanged in the in the not too distant future.
This pro-West foreign policy and diplomatic engagement served Kenya’s interest(s) and opened further inroads into its being warped-up and even caught up, and being perceived as a virtual client state of Western interests within the international community. This was despite its African and Non-Aligned diplomatic posturing and rhetoric, both domestically and internationally.
Could this era be coming to an end? It almost certainly looks so, and increasingly appears so, unless the West comes to terms with the young, dynamic, energetic and thoroughly focused President, who is determined to realign, shore up and redefine the country’s foreign policy, and anchor it on his domestic agenda, rapid socioeconomic and technological transformation and growth.
According to many foreign policy analysts and observers — even in academia — President Uhuru is the new face of a resurgent Africa, not shy from articulating the African position, with verve, conviction, dignity, passion, and commitment. He is well aware of the changing global fortunes of Africa, hitherto confined to the periphery of international trade and economic order, despite its rising confidence as a growing global powerhouse that the rest of the world can only ignore at their peril.
Africa is no longer a hapless and hopeless bystander in the international global sphere, but a steadily growing and certainly well-positioned to take advantage of its newly found gravitas, both politically and economically. Kenya and President Uhuru are a good measure of that potential.
By 2015 and possibly within a decade from now, any remaining doubts about Kenya’s pro-West diplomatic credentials would have been completely erased — whatever it will remain of Kenya’s subservient affiliation to the West will probably be in some sections of the academic and fringe political groups and individuals with little or no clout. And certainly, no public space or much-hyped publicity or following unless, there is a sea change in the manner in which the West, in particular, the US and the European Union, deals and engages with Kenya.
In a word, Kenya has been an island of peace in a turbulent neighbourhood, a beacon of peace and an envy of all in the region, thanks to the foresight and vision of its prosecution of a pragmatic domestic and foreign policy since Independence.
Amina Mohamed, his Foreign Affairs Cabinet Secretary, is a brilliant lawyer and a career diplomat, with exemplary credentials in the diplomatic world, and one with a brilliant legal mind to create and link impeccable regional and international networks.
Up to November 2015, she was ably assisted by Dr Karanja Kibicho, another long-serving career civil servant of good standing and an academic in his right. He is an engineer by training and profession. Following a reshuffle on November 24, 2015, Dr Monica Juma, a successful diplomat, and academic replaced Karanja. These top foreign policy and career diplomats serve as the change agents and champions of President Uhuru’s New Doctrine, supported by a professional, young, experienced and able schooled diplomatic corps.
Perhaps not overly public and or appreciated, is the supporting cast at the Foreign Service Institute and other quasi-independent institutions such as the Kenya Institute for Public Policy Research and Analysis, the Institute of Diplomacy and International Relations at the University of Nairobi, the National Defence College and the Kenya School of Government, which offer support, inputs and insights into Kenya foreign policy formulation.
Further afield and also less appreciated is the role of veteran former and retired senior diplomats, who have served Kenya in various missions and positions abroad, and local and international scholars, experts and academics, such as Prof Peter Kagwanja, Lt-Generals Lazarus Sumbeiywo and Daniel Opande, Ambassador Bethuel Kiplagat and many others, who in the past have offered exemplary service to this country.
In the ensuing period since the collapse of the African dictatorships in the early 1990s, including the 10 years under President Kibaki, Kenya’s foreign policy was more reactive and ad hoc both internationally and regionally. As the global scene unfolded, Kenya sought, with urgency and in tandem with a radically changed world order, to remain relevant, and to leverage its position as a relevant, albeit not a too important regional player, as had hitherto been at the height of the Cold War.
Internally, Kenya had to grapple and come to terms with a rapidly changing and fluid political dispensation, and not too friendly and supportive former Western countries, which were now beholden to a newly found democratisation ethos.
Regionally, Kenya had to address itself to two rapid regime changes within its two main neighbouring countries — the collapse of the Mengistu regime in 1990 in Ethiopia and the Siad Barre regime in Somalia — and the attendant spill over and threats from these two developments.
For President Daniel Moi, like many other former close client states of the Western-bloc elsewhere and in particular in Africa, the 1990s were a tough lesson in how the Western-bloc would lurch from almost fanatical support to an almost disdainful disregard of their erstwhile allies in search for a new world order — they were left hanging high and dry once their utility was over.
In this group were the Zaire strongman Mobutu Sese Seko, Kamuzu Banda of Malawi and most tellingly, the apartheid regime in South Africa, who were more or less forced to re-think the impossible, the Black majority rule under the then anti-apartheid leader, Nelson Mandela, who was released from prison after 27 years in 1990. He was elected the first democratically President in April 1994.
For President Moi, his currency as a regional kingpin and anchor was rapidly diminishing despite his efforts to remain relevant, at least in the eyes of the Western world geopolitical calculus. The US-led intervention in Somalia after the collapse of the Siad Barre regime in 1992-93, which ended in the humiliation of a Super Power at the hands of a rag-tag militia, was a temporary respite, in which Kenya sought to acquire maximum leverage from. It was short-lived.
The outbreak of the Rwanda Genocide and subsequent installation of the Tutsi-minority regime in 1994 was equally a temporary respite despite the massive international outcry and subsequent international support.
The ousting of the longest-serving Western strategic ally in the then Zaire, now the Democratic Republic of Congo, Mobutu in 1997 by a rebel faction led by Laurent Kabila from the East was a telling point of how the global Western-diplomatic power play had changed, and for other former Western-bloc allies in the region, it was an eye-opener.
The August 1998 terrorist bombing of the US Embassy in Nairobi and Dar es Salaam, Tanzania was the most dramatic twin events and a clear demonstration of the changing world geopolitical scene. It brought to the fore the birth of a new global phenomenon, at least not too familiar on the African continent — global terrorism.
These two terror attacks introduced East Africa to the global terrorism menace and its reach and with it, the urgency, risks, and threats associated with being perceived as being too close and beholden to the Western world.
For President Moi and indeed Kenya’s foreign policy, it was a sobering reminder that decisions at the international arena and/or do and can have consequences, and could extract a heavy domestic toll without a commensurate response and respite from the Western-bloc allies.
President Kibaki, the Third President of Kenya, enjoyed some very welcome respite and recognition during his first term between 2002-2007 and was treated well, if not liked. However, to him and his newly minted grand coalition, the writing was on the wall as soon as the glue that held the disparate ruling coalition unstuck in 2005 and for President Kibaki, it could not have come at a worse moment in his political career, especially as he prepared to seek his second and final term in the 2007 General Election.
His public support from the West, specifically from the US and Britain and other leading states such as Germany, France and Italy, as well as the European Union, diminished under alleged massive mega corruption schemes, culminating in an open season, where Western diplomats publicly and privately derided the Kibaki administration.
In the aftermath of the contested and controversial 2007 election and the violence that followed, President Uhuru Kenyatta served as one of the two Deputy Prime Ministers in the very accomplished administration, especially about reviving the economy and huge infrastructure projects.
President Kibaki’s dealings with the Chinese, Indians and Libya’s Muammar Gaddafi helped to diversify Kenya’s source of development aid and funding, trading partners, including some attempts at sourcing some military-cum-security hardware from the Chinese.
Kenya’s foreign policy, its trade and economic, and military-cum-security asserts and capital, all tired up and enmeshed in the global Western capitals, was passed on to a new political dispensation and coalition.
But by President Kibaki’s tenure coming to an end, the international geopolitical and trade-cum-economic imperatives were, at least internally, coming under increasing impetus for an urgent review to reflect entirely new global players and or imperatives, in this case, the rapidly growing economic powerhouses of China, India, Brazil and South Korea.
The Western-bloc global hegemony in all realms was increasing, and growing competition and it was only pragmatic in nearly all instances for the post-Kibaki political leadership to seek and take advantage of new foreign policy opportunities and leverage(s) at least; given 40 years of pro-Western legacy, and abject lessons of how not to be so-beholden to one dominant if not hegemonic world view and prism in the conduct of foreign policy and relations.