President Uhuru’s approach now paying dividends

Sunday February 28 2016

Kenya's President Uhuru Kenyatta signs agreements with Israeli Prime Minister in Jerusalem on February 23, 2016. PHOTO | AFP

Kenya's President Uhuru Kenyatta signs agreements with Israeli Prime Minister in Jerusalem on February 23, 2016. PHOTO | AFP  

By NDUNG’U GETHENJI

During the inauguration of President Uhuru Kenyatta into office in 2013, analysts, pundits and sceptics together predicted dark days for Kenya’s domestic and foreign relations.

The worry was that the ICC case President Uhuru was then embroiled in would scar Kenya deeply. Pessimistically they envisioned a Kenya isolated both domestically and by international partners.

How President Kenyatta has developed Kenya’s foreign policy indicates that he was clearly on the challenges his administration was facing as it got into office.

He knew that he needed to quickly reverse the bleak picture analysts and critics had painted. Faced with similar circumstances, most African presidents getting into power would have grovelled at the feet of the international community and begged to be accepted into the community of world leaders.

President Kenyatta took a completely different approach.

He focused attention on where Kenya was coming from; its democratic credentials; its constitutional progress; its sovereignty, and its history as a nation.

He celebrated the 2013 election as a moment where the Kenyan people had stood up to foreign interference in how their country was run. He rekindled the pan-African spirit and reconceptualised African solidarity. Before long the world took note; here was an African president who was not afraid of the West. His approach was as unexpected as it was genius.

REGIONAL INTEGRATION

The immediate reaction from especially the developed countries was outrage. How dare an African president speak like that! President Kenyatta met each not-so-dignified protest from these Western countries with one position; Kenya is not a Banana Republic!

President Kenyatta then strategically focused attention on regional integration efforts, starting with the East African Community. His efforts led to the establishment of a critical security and economic socio-political infrastructure that have resulted in better cooperation on common threats like terrorism, and improved how the region does business within itself.

Today we have free movement of people and goods across the region and the region boasts having established itself as a single tourist destination where the different countries issue a single tourist visa. This has greatly improved the tourism business and increased tourist activities across the region.

However, since President Uhuru took office, Kenya’s foreign policy has risen to heights never reached before. In fact not only has Kenya’s foreign policy consolidated Kenya’s sovereignty and territorial integrity but landmark policy approaches and strategies have gone a long way in promoting economic development across East Africa.

President Kenyatta then deliberately encouraged other African blocs to replicate what EAC was doing and, before long, groupings like Comesa, Ecowas, SADC and Arab Maghreb Union were rejuvenated. The African Union then became stronger.

Ndung’u Gethenji is chairman of Defence and Foreign Affairs Committee in Parliament.