Chinese gov’t express shock after gift to Kenya’s parliament ‘disappears’
Chinese gov’t express shock after gift to Kenya’s parliament ‘disappears’: The Chinese government has expressed shock after a consignment of laptops and projectors donated to Kenya’s Parliament, reached its recipient empty.
Chinese Embassy officials in Nairobi said the gift of “friendship” had been part of a pledge by Mr Cao Jianming, the Vice-Chairman of the Standing Committee of the National People’s Congress (NPC) of China, who had visited Kenya nearly four months ago.
Mr Cao, who became the third senior Chinese parliamentary official to visit Kenya in five years, had asked the Chinese Embassy to facilitate the delivery of the goods.
“We were shocked to be notified by the National Assembly that when the container (containing the laptops and projectors) arrived in Parliament on Tuesday, July 30, and was opened by Assembly officials, it was empty,” said the Chinese Embassy in a statement.
Mr Michael Sialai, the Clerk of the National Assembly on Thursday said the container tagged ‘diplomatic goods’ had been opened in the presence of senior officials but had nothing inside.
“Upon opening of the container seals, it was confirmed to have been empty,” Mr Sialai said in a statement.
Mr Sialai said he asked the detectives from the Directorate of Criminal Investigations (DCI) attached to the Parliament Road Police Station to look into the incident.
According to the embassy, the consignment was duly dispatched and was expected to be delivered to Parliament in July this year.
It is not yet clear whether the equipment was removed from the container before the shipment arrived in Kenya, or after it had landed in the country.
Normally, under the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations, goods tagged ‘diplomatic’ cannot be opened even by Customs officials at the ports of entry, except if the sending or recipient diplomatic mission agrees to it.
By Thursday morning, the agent tasked with delivering the goods, Ballore Africa Transport and Logistics Ltd, had not responded to the inquiries.
China National Enterprises Ltd had been assigned by Beijing to send the goods.
The Embassy says it is shocked by the development and is working with security forces to investigate the incident.
“We believe that with professionalism of DCI, this matter will be resolved and the equipment recovered with their intervention.”
Whether the container was loaded empty by mistake, goods stolen in transit or emptied by rogue officials on the Kenyan side is yet to be determined. But it could raise key security questions for Parliament.
Tasked with watching over key policies including those that protect Kenya’s national interest, questions have now been raised on why Parliament would accept a donation of computers from China.
Barely a year ago, the Chinese fought back claims of bugging at the African Union headquarters they helped built in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.
French newspaper Le Monde had reported that Chinese officials had placed wire taps inside the $200 million (Sh20 billion) building, listening in to conversations on key decisions of the continental body. Both China and AU dismissed the report. The Chinese installed the computer system in use in the building.
In Kenya, the Chinese argue the computer donation was as “a gesture of friendship.”
Back in April, Mr Cao who had also met with President Uhuru Kenyatta, met with his Kenyan equivalents, Deputy Speaker of the National Assembly, Moses Cheboi, and his Senate Counterpart Prof Kithure Kindiki “where they held separate bilateral talks touching on parliamentary cooperation between the two countries.”
“Over the years, the Chinese government has made friendly donations to our Kenyan brothers and sisters, including food aid, medical and office equipment. Among them was office equipment donated to Parliament in 2018. All have been delivered safe and sound,” the Embassy said.
Mr Sialai said he hoped DCI would help resolve the matter.