Kenya has officially opened an embassy in Cuba in a renewed bid to strengthen relations with the Caribbean region.
A statement from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs indicated that Kenya is looking to learn from Cuba’s experience in providing health care services to its people in spite of sanctions imposed on it by the US until last year.
Anthony Mwaniki Muchiri, who was acquitted in March this year of any role in the Tokyo embassy scandal, will now be in charge of the Cuba mission following its official inauguration last week.
Mr Muchiri, who served as ambassador to Libya before that mission was closed, will head the embassy that will take care of other countries in the region.
On Thursday, Kenya signed a communique with the West Indies islands St Kitts and Nevis to establish diplomatic relations.
This means the Cuban mission will also be handling relations with this country in the Caribbean.
“This is an important first step and we look forward to further engagements that will lay down a structured framework of cooperation between our two countries,” Foreign Affairs Cabinet Secretary Amina Mohamed said after signing the agreement on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly in New York.
Last week, Foreign Affairs Principal Secretary Monica Juma, who inaugurated the Cuban diplomatic office, said the Cuban mission will extend relations in areas of security.
“The embassy will contribute to extend bilateral links between the two countries in fields like trade, education, research and culture,” she said, according to a statement sent to newsrooms after the launch on September 16.
This is the second Kenyan embassy in Latin America after that in Brazil opened in 2006.
It is headed by Isaac Ochieng’ who also oversees relations in Argentina, Chile, Colombia, and Venezuela. But it is Kenya’s first in the Caribbean.
The two countries established diplomatic relations in 2001 and Cuba has run a resident mission in Nairobi since then.
“The decision to open the embassy in Cuba is informed by the shared collaboration interests under the South – South Cooperation which provides for exchange of ideas, technology, trade and investments,” the statement added.
It follows a Cabinet resolution in January last year, just a month after the US announced resumption of diplomatic relations with Cuba after 50 years of sanctions related to the Cold War.
“Through the Joint Commission, Cuba has expressed her willingness to collaborate with Kenya in various sectors including education, health, biotechnology, trade and industry, sports, sugar processing, culture, information and communication. Cabinet directed that Kenya establishes an Embassy in Havana,” a Cabinet memo said last year after a meeting chaired by President Uhuru Kenyatta.