Why the British government needs Kenya

On Wednesday last week, the United Kingdom House of Commons had a substantive discussion about the current state of affairs in Kenya for over one and a half hours. The discussion, chaired by Peter Bone, a Conservative Party politician and Member of Parliament for Wellingborough, was not just an ordinary discussion but a critical one as it will largely sharp how the British government will interact with President-elect Uhuru if the Supreme Court upholds his win.

The discussion comes amid an intense public debate before the General Election that the British government would slap sanctions against Kenya if Kenyans voted in Uhuru as their president and accusations that the British government was covertly supporting the CORD coalition.

In fact, as noted by Eric Joyce, MP for Falkirk and mover of the motion on Kenya, it is these feelings of foreign forces interfering with the Kenyans choice of who to vote for that made some Kenyans solidly back Uhuru’s presidency. According to him, the election results, if confirmed by the Supreme Court, are a form of strong statement by Kenyans that if they were required to choose between sovereign self-determination and the patronage of foreign powers, they would choose the former.

Kenya and Britain have shared strong relations economically, politically and culturally and unlike before where Kenya appeared just like a dependant of Britain, the ground has tilted as elaborated by the discussants in this parliamentary session.

The relation between Kenya and Britain is now symbiotic not parasitic. The strategic position and significance of Kenya towards the British government and people’s interests cannot be wished away. As noted by Eric Joyce, “British government needs to recognise that Kenya is far too important to be treated as if it were a minor and strategically unimportant state.”

The strategic interests that Kenya has towards Britain are many and indispensable as discussed. The Kenya Defence Forces defeat of the Al Shabaab and securing Mogadishu is credited for helping to restore sanity in Somalia.

With a Somalia country that is on a road to recovery, we now have British private equity investors who are interested in investing in Mogadishu. In fact, this interest by the British to invest in Mogadishu is more that of Kenyans who have largely stabilized Somalia.

Moreover, the Kenyan government support in fighting international terrorism in the sea lines did not go unnoticed in this debate. Further, over 10,000 British army soldiers also access unrivalled training facilities in Laikipia Kenya, and this has helped them while launching their military operations in countries like Afghanistan.

The support of Kenya with these facilities is credited for British army ability to mount operation while defending Falkland Islands 30 years ago.

In addition, as discussed by Alistair Burt, the parliamentary under-secretary of state for foreign and commonwealth affairs, the United Kingdom is the largest commercial investor in Kenya and home to half of the top 10 tax-paying companies in Kenya. Obviously, when British companies make profits in Kenya, it’s a win for both Kenya and Britain. Kenya wins because these companies pay taxes and create jobs and for Britain, the remitted profits are used to build their country.

Unlike what the local and international doomsayers have been peddling, the House of Commons do not see at all any need to sanction Kenya or even isolate Uhuru Kenyatta if he is confirmed the President by the Supreme Court.

They actually want the British government to cooperate with Kenyatta even more despite him facing charges at the International Criminal Court. They see great economic opportunities in Kenya, as stated by Jim Shannon and are afraid that British government and people will lose out these opportunities to the Chinese.

In fact, Jim Shannon is concerned that despite British people having construction skills, it’s the Chinese who are doing massive road construction in Kenya. He actually states, “We should be doing that sort of construction work in Kenya. No disrespect to the Chinese, but why are we not there?” Despite doing business in Kenya, they also do not want to lose influence in any part of Africa and particularly in Kenya towards the Chinese.

In a nutshell, the House of Commons would want their government to work closely with Kenyatta and their share the same view with the New York Times, the most influential newspaper in the United States which stated earlier that the US and Europe should “work with” a government in Kenya headed by President-elect Uhuru Kenyatta.

Nevertheless, Alistair Burt was categorically that the United Kingdom will not reduce its cooperation with Kenya even if Kenyatta is confirmed the President and strongly rebutted claims that UK has threatened sanctions against Kenya before. Actually, Burt agrees with Eric Joyce that a more secure Kenya means a more secured United Kingdom.

(Dann Mwangi is a lawyer and researcher at CPS Research International)

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