British lawmakers demand stronger Kenya ties despite the International Criminal Court dilemma
Kenya: British lawmakers pressed their Government to forge closer ties with Nairobi during heated debate on Kenya, prompting an assurance that ties would be strengthened despite the International Criminal Court dilemma.
During the debate in the House of Lords on Wednesday, members welcomed Prime Minister David Cameron’s recent invitation of President Uhuru to London to attend a conference on situation of Somalia, saying it was an example of “very good relations” between Kenya and Britain.
The debate was the second on Kenya’s presidential election and relations with Nairobi after another in March, underlining the UK lawmakers’ interest in their country’s policy towards a traditional ally and biggest trading partner in East Africa.
Debate was dominated by the UK’s awkward stance towards Kenya because President Uhuru and Deputy President William Ruto face trial at the International Criminal Court and questions raised over the credibility of the trials.
Members pressed Baroness Warsi, the Senior Minister of State, Department for Communities and Local Government & Foreign and Commonwealth Office, on claims that the UK interfered with the Kenyan elections.
Lord Triesman brought up the UK’s pre-election declaration of “essential contact” only with Uhuru and Ruto were they to be elected saying the policy was no longer tenable.
“During the campaign, the EU and the United States limited themselves to what they described as “essential contacts” with ICC indictees, but that, I suspect, can be only a short-term position,” said Lord Triesman.
Lord Triesman said there was no point cutting off contacts with Uhuru since the President had repeatedly said that he would work with the court to clear his name.
“It would be a mistake to abandon political or trading influence in Africa, and certainly not in East Africa, to the commercial interests of China or some of the other major Asian powers,” the member said.
The member asked: “Does the Minister agree that the earliest possible attempt to grasp what I think is a new opening in relations with Kenya would be prudent?”
In response, Warsi assured that the ICC process would not interfere with the ties between London and Nairobi.
The UK minister acknowledged the President and deputy had committed to cooperate with the ICC to “clear their names.”
“We believe that the suspects must be considered innocent until proven guilty before that court,” she said.
Lord Triesman had earlier said: “I am encouraged by his (President) willingness to answer the charges and his intention to clear his name. His intent may also be signaled by some of the appointments he has made to his Government, because they could hardly be said to be people who are desirous of avoiding legal consequences or proper processes.“
The UK minister added the appointment of a new Kenyan government committed to upholding their international commitments provides an opportunity to work together “on our mutual interests with renewed vigour.”
The UK minister described the ties between the two nations as “both deep and broad” and that the UK cannot to afford to isolate Kenya.
“We agree that our relationship with Kenya is important and that we have a wide-ranging shared agenda,” Warsi said. “Regional security issues and trade are areas of particularly active co-operation and we want to strengthen our links with Kenya across the board.“
The minister however said the ICC process must be let to run its course.
Kenya and UK, explained the UK minister, enjoy a shared history and strong personal links with 20,000 British nationals living in Kenya and some 200,000 visiting Kenya each year—more than from any other country.
Britain has significant interests in Kenya being the largest commercial investor in the East Africa nation. She added that UK’s Department for International Development (DfID) contributed more Sh11.5 billion (£92 million) last year. That figure is expected to rise to Sh18 billion (£143 million).
She said that the UK trains 10,000 of its troops in Kenya each year and works together closely with Kenya on regional security issues, such as Somalia and counterterrorism.
President Uhuru was invited to London recently to attend the conference on Somalia “since Kenya plays a positive role in stabilising its neigbouring country,” she said.
The minister explained Kenya’s critical role in regional security. That included having nearly 5,000 troops in Somalia, hosting more than 500,000 Somali refugees and spearheading implementation of peace deal between Sudan and South Sudan.
She said that Kenya has played a significant role in reducing incidents of piracy off the Somali Coast.
Lord Chidgey who raised the debate said that Kenya and UK are interdependent more than ever before.
“We in this House look forward to working with Kenya’s new Government to build on this relationship and to help to realise the great potential of a united Kenya, in line with Vision 2030,” he said.