Interest from the West is nothing new

Wednesday March 18 2020

In less than one week, President Uhuru Kenyatta has held a meeting US President Donald Trump at the White House in Washington DC and another one with Theresa May, the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, here at home. Why now?

At his inauguration as the first Prime Minister of Kenya — we have had another one many years later — the founding father of our nation said something that signalled what ideology we, as a free nation, were going to follow. This was at the height of the cold war era. The younger generation will, of course, not understand what the cold wartime means. The communist East and the capitalist West could not see eye to eye and newly-independent African countries had to choose who they were going to be aligned to.


Mzee Jomo Kenyatta, at his inauguration, said something to this effect: “We as an independent nation choose the philosophy of non-alignment. But non-alignment does not mean non-commitment."

That was the beginning of our commitment as a nation to the West. America and the UK have been the ideological leaders of the West and have also been our close friends.

The American navy has never been too far from our coast and the English have been training their solders here in our country. The perception has always been that those Western countries are close to us.

Closeness with an industrialised nation, one would expect, would come along with agreements on how to fix developmental matters, some of which become really visible in infrastructural features such as roads and railway networks that open up access to markets, an important feature of growth


However, we had a problem. A few years after our independence, a phenomenon arose where certain personalities in high places in government decided that it was "their time to eat." I think that in that progression, the West we had committed ourselves to also abandoned us.

There are many things that happened in the first 39 years of our independence, and then there came one man named Mwai Kibaki. As Finance minister, he had dealt with the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund and other institutions of the West. No sooner had he become president than he turned East.

China became a partner, and since then we see a difference. Together with that, European political and economic dynamics have changed, with Brexit in the horizon. Could all these be the reasons for the sudden enthusiasm of the West towards us when we see President Uhuru Kenyatta in a meeting in the White House and another here at home with western leaders?

Fr Wamugunda is dean of students at the University of Nairobi. [email protected]