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Britain to continue forging strong ties with Kenya in trade, security

By | March 24th 2012 at 00:00:00 GMT +0300

Henry Bellingham

I am delighted to be making my third visit to Kenya as the UK’s Minister for Africa.

The relationship between the UK and Kenya continues on a dynamic and mutually beneficial path across a wide range of interests. The objective of my visit is to underline the continuing and growing significance of the UK-Kenya partnership.

For example our trade relationship is booming, which is why I will make my first visit to Mombasa as minister, to learn about developments and opportunities in key Kenyan industries. Our trade relationship is a two-way street. In fact, Kenya exports more to UK.

Our citizens’ relationships are also key to the UK-Kenya partnership. There are perhaps 200,000 Kenyans living, working or studying in the UK. And likewise, about 20,000 Britons live in Kenya, and almost ten times that number visit every year as tourists. During my visit I will exchange views on a number of security issues of mutual interest.

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These include a range of transnational threats such as drug smuggling, cross-border crime, terrorism and piracy. In all of these areas and more we have developed strong personal and institutional relationships, as we have in other fora such as the Commonwealth. We understand each other well.

The defence relationship is more intensive than it has been for many years. Our work on regional problems like Somalia is far closer than it was a few years ago. The UK recently sponsored UN Resolution 2036 in New York, giving Amisom extra troops, including from Kenya, to enable it effectively capitalise on the gains already made and increase the military pressure on Al Shabaab.

Bringing Kenyan troops into the internationally agreed mandate for defending the Somali people will further formalise their contribution to fighting Al Shabaab.

I will discuss the operation in Somalia while in Kenya. The international community including the UK, and Somalia’s neighbours like Kenya, must maintain the momentum generated by last month’s London Conference on Somalia. We will play our part in this — the UK’s development budget for Somalia in the coming year will be £63 million (Sh8.2 billion).

DfID’s programme in Kenya is set to double over the next few years. In 2012/13 we expect to spend £110 million (Sh14.4 billion) on development programmes, with a range of programmes to support Vision 2030.

Part of our development programme includes a focus on governance issues. The UK is supporting a number of institutional reforms, such as the recent establishment of the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission. As UK officials have stated before, we have no interest in the outcome of the General Election and we are not backing any candidates or parties.

I know there has been much speculation about the purpose of my visit. The visit has been planned for several weeks. It was never in response to the alleged documents presented in Parliament. For the record, the documents are not genuine and I have no intention of giving them any credence by commenting further.

I am concerned that, among other preposterous allegations, President Kibaki and Prime Minister Raila Odinga were dragged into this as part of an attempt to cause division and instability, just when Kenya needs a stable and peaceful environment to conduct elections and implement the Constitution. The heightened tensions from the political rhetoric is of concern, and we support those who are calling for restraint.

My visit is a succession of ministerial and other visits to Kenya over the last few years. Prime Minister David Cameron’s meeting with President Kibaki in London last month underscored the importance we attach to this relationship. Kenya is and will remain a significant partner for the UK.

The writer is UK Minister for Africa.

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