Kenyatta and Ruto came to power in 2013 under a cloud of the “choices have consequences” stance taken by Western powers
Uhuru Kenyatta and William Ruto came to power in 2013 under a cloud of the “choices have consequences” stance taken by Western powers especially the United States and Britain.
Many pessimists wondered how he would fare on the international stage under such a hostile environment and whether Kenya’s national interests would not suffer.
Even as they fought the International Criminal Court (ICC) cases, which eventually collapsed, the President reset the country’s foreign policy as he continued with the “Look East” policy that commenced under the Mwai Kibaki regime.
He engaged in a busy international travel schedule to buttress Kenya’s foreign policy as he looked for new partners insisting Kenya’s national interests would come first.
In addition, he was able to position Kenya as an African hub attracting foreign investment and assistance from new found allies and within no time the West was playing catch up.
By September last year, the President had netted Sh3 trillion from his foreign travels raising his approval ratings in the country and putting to shame Opposition leaders who saw the trips as a waste of money.
Over 50 heads of state and other top world leaders, including United States President Barack Obama and Pope Francis visited the country.
Seeking to build on the success of the August 2014 US-Africa Leaders Summit, Obama, who was the first sitting US President to visit Kenya, co-hosted the Global Entrepreneurship Summit in Nairobi at which multi-billion investments were announced.
With Uhuru’s visit to the US for the Africa leaders meeting, and Obama’s to the country, Kenya was back as Washington’s strongest ally in the region.
Since then, Kenya has received significant help in the war against al Shaabab in terms of financial, security and defence equipment support. And more is expected under new US President Donald Trump.
In addition to continuing with its strong relations with allies such as China and Japan, President Uhuru has also forged ties with countries such as Turkey, Qatar and India attracting major bilateral deals.
While seeking to strengthen its Afro-centric foreign policy stance that aims at increasing trade within the continent, Uhuru’s government has sought to balance relations with the East and the West.
The Jubilee administration has prioritised the integration of the East African region and increased collaboration between African nations.
Because of the Jubilee government’s strong foreign policy, Kenya has been the destination of choice for major global conferences in the last four years.
In 2016 alone, it hosted major seven international conferences key among them being World Trade Organisation, United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD), the Global Partnership on Economic Development Conference (2nd High-Level Meeting), the Sixth Tokyo International Conference on African Development (TICAD) and the global Partnership for Economic Development Co-operation (HLM2) bringing thousands of delegates, including heads of state, to the country.
This in turn raised its profile in the meetings, incentives, conferences and events (MICE) sector.
This year, President Uhuru was invited to the G7 summit, held in Taormina, Italy where he met the world’s nine most powerful leaders.
As State House spokesman Manoah Esipisu noted, this was no accident. It was recognition, by the international community, that Kenya matters both for its own sake, and because it speaks for Africa.
At the summit, he met the Presidents of the US, France, the German Chancellor, and the Prime Ministers of Canada, Japan, and the host Italy, which was a first for Kenya, and a first for Africa.
Kenya no longer goes to western capitals with a begging bowl in hand but to have its voice heard.
Under Uhuru’s leadership, Kenya, for the first time since independence developed a written foreign policy, which was finalized in 2014.
Its 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.
As the President notes in his forward remarks in the document, it also seeks to deepen the country’s engagement and partnerships with the Kenyan Diaspora in order to leverage and harness their skills and expertise for national development.
The country’s Diaspora’s remittances are ranked as the highest foreign exchange source ahead of tea.
But for long, their issues remained unsettled until the government developed a Diaspora Policy to guide their engagement with the country.
By John Juma
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