Choices have consequences” was the mantra that Jubilee administration faced after clinching power in the hotly contested 2013 Kenyan general elections. The main leaders of the administration faced charges by the ICC which brought with it a cold treatment from international leaders and the dark veil kept hovering over the Jubilee government as it worked to solidify its administration. After the dropping of charges by the ICC, the dark veil that had so pervaded the Jubilee administration’s legitimacy was finally lifted and Kenya became a hub of global investment and the scramble for Kenya began.
When President Uhuru Kenyatta took the mantle of leadership more than three years ago, Kenya was tagged as a failed state. This was primarily due to the charges at the International Criminal Court (ICC) that had engulfed both President Uhuru Kenyatta and his deputy William Ruto.
Negative connotations and threats surfaced from International leaders. Sentiments such as, “We live in an interconnected world and people should be thoughtful about the impact that their choices have on their nation, on the region, on the economy, on the society and on the world in which they live. Choices have consequences,” says Johnnie Carson. These words from Former U.S. Assistant Secretary of State Johnnie Carson were a buzz to every media space in Kenya and Africa at large. In January 2013, the British Government said it would only maintain “essential” contacts with the two if they won the elections.
Meaning that if Kenya was to elect the two leaders who were facing charges at the ICC it will out rightly be isolated. However, the fact is far from the truth. Kenya has become a global power house. This fact is in reference to the kind of world leaders trooping in our country and the international conferences that have and keeps been held in Kenya.
For instance, on September 26, 2016 Jordan’s King Abdullah II bin Al-Hussein jetted into the country. He held talks with President Uhuru on security issues. This saw the two leaders visit Embakasi to witness joint military exercises dubbed swift eagle conducted by the Kenya Defence Forces (KDF) and the Royal Jordanian Armed Forces at the Embakasi Garrison. Swift Eagle is a nine-day military exercise which focuses on sharing of knowledge and skills in combating emerging complex security challenges.
Prior to Jordan’s King visit, on May 9, 2014 the Chinese Premier Li Keqiang visited Kenya amidst the dark cloud hoovering around the Jubilee government. China a country well known for its non-interference policy caused shivers within the international community. Its support and stand clearly demonstrated the close relationship that Kenya and China have and continue to preserve even during dark and uncertain moments.
As a result Seventeen agreements worth billions of shillings were signed as Chinese Premier Li Keqiang and President Uhuru’s government. In a snippet China decided to give; Sh327 billion (fund 85 per cent of project) to fund Standard Gauge Railway, Sh5.1 billion for Setting up of China -Africa Research Centre in Nairobi, US$ 2 billion to establish China – Africa Development Bank and Sh880 million for the establishment of ecological and Wildlife Protection. Also China pledged to support Kenya on the repatriation of the Somalia refugees in Kenya.
Before his return, the Premier was joined by four other heads of States; Presidents Yoweri Museveni (Uganda), Jakaya Kikwete (Tanzania),Paul Kagame, Rwanda and Salva Kiir (South Sudan) and a representative of the Burundian government for further talks on regional integration, peace, security and infrastructure.
However, immediately after the December 5, 2014 decision by the ICC to drop charges against President Uhuru the dark veil immediately fell off. The scramble for Kenya began and Kenya welcomed US President Barrack Obama in July 2015 and signed bilateral agreements with Kenya’s counterpart President Uhuru Kenya. The pacts signed between U.S and Kenya touched on: terrorism where US committed an undisclosed additional funding to help Kenya government prevent terror attacks. The financial support is meant to train security forces, reach out to communities that have been infiltrated by extremism and enhance border security. Both leaders pledged to support the war against corruption and civil society groups that undermine progress in Kenya, enhance response to poaching amongst others.
Few months thereafter, in November 2015 the leader of Vatican and Holy See, Pope Francis was welcomed by an honor guard at the State House and a 21 gun salute symbolizing his position as a state leader. His message was purely on peace and reconciliation, pushing for good governance and support the fight against corruption.
Thereafter leaders from Africa and the world at large began to troop in Kenya. President Park Geun-hye of South-Korea on May 31, 2016 visited Kenya. On his tour both him and President Uhuru Kenyatta signed seven trade agreements that will see Kenyans benefit in the area of health, education, energy, ICT and industrialization sectors.
One of the deals will see the Korea Export-Import Bank pump an initial Sh5 billion to support the agricultural sector towards food security.
Others were on cooperation in health, innovation and higher education and electric power and nuclear energy development.
The deal on scientific and technological cooperation entails the sharing of policies and technologies in the fields of science and technology between the two countries. It also involves implementing exchanges between research and development institutes in Kenya and South Korea.
The pact on cooperation in e-Government, will see Kenya and South Korea share best practices and technical exchanges to increase efficiency and effectiveness of government services for the benefit of the people of the two countries.
MOU on cooperation in industry, trade, investment and industrial complex development will see Kenya and South Korea work together in developing their textiles, food and leather processing and automobiles and electronics industries.
The agreement on electric power and nuclear energy development will see Kenyans benefitting from Korea’s expertise in power generation.
Kenya will also benefit from Korea’s support in screening and cryo-therapy for cervical cancer, diagnostics capacity building for imaging and nuclear medicine.
On June 2, 2016 President Recep Tayyip Erdogan visited Kenya resulting to various trade deals. One was on the memorandum of understanding between the Turkish Standards Institution (TSE) and the Kenya Bureau of Standards (KEBS).
Another memorandum of understanding signed was on the implementation of the Mount Elgon multi-purpose water project between Kenyan Water and Irrigation Ministry and Yapı Merkezi Group.
Also a collaboration of protocol between TRT (Turkish Radio and Television Corporation) and Kenyan counterpart KBC (Kenya Broadcasting Corporation) was signed by TRT Director General Şenol Göka and KBC Managing Director Waithaka Waihenya.
Both Kenya and Turkey agreed to set an ambitious target to grow their bilateral trade volume to the one billion dollar (Sh100 billion) mark within the next five years.
Africa countries were not left behind. Hailemariam Desalegn the Prime Minister of Ethiopia visited Kenya and together with President Uhuru, agreed and signed various pacts. For instance, Kenya signed a power purchase agreement with Ethiopia that will see Kenya receive 400mw of hydro-power in the next eighteen months.
The two leaders also agree to commit themselves to finalize an agreement on the development and operation of a product oil pipeline from Lamu Port to Addis Ababa by the end of 2016.
Also there was an agreement to explore the possibilities of launching a Joint Grand Kenya/Ethiopia Marathon as a “Sports Brand” to promote Cultural Cooperation and Sports Tourism.
On July 4, 2016 the Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on his visit to Kenya pledged to have Israel train 100 youths yearly for six years to enhance Kenya’s capacity to manage irrigation. The training, will focus on irrigation engineering which will equip trainees with skills to manage the Sh7.2 billion Galana/Kulalu Food Security Project — a joint initiative between Kenya and Israel.
Israel will also continue to support small-holder irrigation schemes in Kenya and revive some that had collapsed like the one in Kibwezi and new ones in Ukambani and other semi-arid areas;
Another benefit from Israel is through the Provision of technical support to the recently-established Category 2 Groundwater Centre for Regional Studies to enhance access to clean water for all Kenyans through exploiting the great groundwater potential that Kenya has.
Israel also agreed to partner with Kenya in developing the great potential that Kenya has on its 500km Coast from Vanga to Kiunga turning the salty sea waters of the Indian Ocean through desalination into millions of cubic meters of fresh water.
Lastly, the visit by India Prime Minister Narendra Modi to Kenya on 10 th to 11 th July 2016 saw the two countries sign memorandum of understanding (MoU) and agreements. These were in the area of defense cooperation where 30 field ambulances to the Kenya Defence Forces were donated. Both sides agreed to continue cooperating in this sector and to share information and expertise in counter terrorism, cyber security, combating drugs and human trafficking.
The two countries also agreed to cooperate in the field of standardization, expertise sharing and mutual trade between Bureau of Indian Standards and Bureau of Kenya Standards.
India also agreed to extend two line of credits one of $15 million (first tranche of $30 million) to IDB Capital, Kenya, for development of various small and medium enterprises [SMEs] in the east African country. The other line of credit of $ 29.95 million is for upgrade of Rift Valley Textiles Factory (RIVATEX East Africa Limited), Kenya.
Both Kenya and India signed a revised Double Taxation Avoidance Agreement and also agreed on exemption of visa for holders of diplomatic passports.
Another key agreement was on bolstering cooperation in the Health and Pharmaceutical sector. On this Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced the gifting of a telecobalt cancer therapy machine – the Bhabhatron II; a donation of essential/ARV medicines and medical equipment and capacity building/training programmes in the health sector. Also extend a LoC for the establishment of 100 bed Cancer Hospital in Kenya.
Prime Minister Modi also pledged a grant of US$ 1 million for renovation of the Mahatma Gandhi Graduate Library at the University of Nairobi. India also agreed to support training and capacity building in the areas of clean and renewable energy transmission, grid integration of renewables, grid management and energy efficiency. Towards this, India offered its expertise in the area of LED smart street lighting and LED bulbs for domestic use.
In Summary, the initial circumstance that befell Kenya when President Uhuru Kenyatta took office was undoubtedly complex. However, with the strategy of non-alignment policy and massive development opportunities, Kenya has indeed become a global hot spot. This international limelight has made Kenya to be among the top Africa countries benefiting from the foreign development investment flow and also the hub of global investment. Also Kenya has become a first in hosting world conferences such as WTO, UNCTAD and TICAD. The question that now remains is, will Kenya leaders maintain Kenya’s global position or will they destroy it come 2017 general election? Only time will tell.
Dennis Munene is a Researcher on Governance and Policy issues at Africa Policy Institute.