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Kenya’s position as a diplomacy powerhouse coming to bear at UN

By Faith Munuhe | November 8th 2019

These are indeed dire times on a global scale. We are all witnesses to the huge challenges humanity is facing. Autocratic regimes all over the world are becoming ever more ruthless against their citizens and foreigners alike. From Venezuela to China to Saudi Arabia, brutal rulers use the latest technologies not to improve the life, liberty and happiness of their citizens, but to spy on them and clamp down on behaviour that isn’t to the regime’s liking.

At the same time, liberal and democratic forces are also in trouble. The European Union is in the middle of a modern War of the Roses against Britain, and populism is on the rise across the continent. Affected first, as is just too often the case, are our African brothers on the continent.

And what about the United States of America? Their quagmire defies imagination, and enough ink has been spilled about their crazy and racist President Donald Trump. His latest move should give us pause though: I am speaking about the abandonment of America’s most trusted in a troubled region, the Kurds. After all they had done for America, they were stabbed in the back.

We should take note. Kenya is a strong, powerful nation with many natural resources and incredible human capital of young, talented and hard-working people. But we do need strong international partners in order to continue our path of development.

However, to acquire and keep international partners is not a given. It demands hard diplomatic work, from the clerks of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs all the way up to the President. And while the fruits of their labour is not always immediately visible, the benefits of a well-handled foreign policy are often priceless. Just ask the Americans and the Chinese.

Kenya’s quest for a seat at the United Nations Security Council is no doubt of monumental significance. It will cement its position in the region as a financial and telecommunication hub and thus, a critical trading centre and boost its role in peace-making initiatives. Kenya has rallied countries around a common goal.

An example of this is the recently passed African Continental Free Trade Agreement, the framework that will govern intra-African trade for decades to come. The economic growth this single agreement will heap upon the African continent is hard to estimate. What is already sure is that it has finally unified the African voice in economic matters, and will protect our local producers and manufacturers from outside goods.

Kenya stands proud for its role in the groundbreaking achievement. It needs great skill to convince the most stubborn members of the African Union to sign this ground-breaking economic agreement. Kenya has actively pushed this trade union since 2012, and it is good to see that the hard work is finally paying off. But the world is bigger than just Africa. We need close ties with powers, not just our neighbours, hence such high level tours (by President Uhuru Kenyatta) to Russia, Japan and Saudi Arabia; each one a significant global power.

Take for example Russia; it has one of the strongest and most active militaries in the world, and its diplomatic support is important to assure the success of endeavours such as Kenya’s well-deserved place as a non-permanent member of the UNSC, where Russia is a permanent member and wields influence over the bloc of former Soviet Nations. We need their support in order to be elected to this important role.

Japan, on the other hand, is the third-biggest economy in the world and an important producer of the heavy machinery we need for the improvement of our infrastructure. At the same time, it is a big importer of food, as they don’t have a lot of agricultural land.

New emperor

While officially President Kenyatta attended the enthronement of Japan’s new emperor, he also strengthened our ties and built a personal and good relationship with the nation’s leaders. Hence, we will be able to export more food to their huge markets, spurring local economic growth.

Saudi Arabia, without any doubt, is the leader of the Arab world. On the one hand, Kenya gathered support in the Arab world for the bid for the UNSC, while at the same time holding trade talks with the world’s biggest oil exporter. Kenya is ideally placed to furnish Saudi Arabia with many things they can’t produce in their dry desert, while the SGR should also help Mombasa to become their oil-export’s entry-gate to Eastern Africa.

As global politics becomes increasingly complex and troubling, diplomatic skills are required more than ever before. Kenya’s place will only be assured when and if we deftly navigate the choppy waters of global affairs, thus helping to develop our economy and improve the standard of living.

Ms Munuhe is a student of International Relations at the University of Nairobi

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