Mutua's note to foreign missions raises more queries than answers

Foreign Affairs CS Alfred Mutua and Turkish Ambassador to Kenya Subutay Yuksel during a past presser. [Jenipher Wachie, Standard]

Foreign and Diaspora Affairs Cabinet Secretary Alfred Mutua made an important communication on March 1st, this year to foreign mission.

Through a Note Verbale (NV) he informed Diplomatic and Consular Missions, United Nations (UN) Agencies, and other International Organisations (IOs) in Kenya that, "it had been agreed, in the interests of efficiency, that the Missions may communicate directly with Ministries, Departments, and Agencies (MDAs) without going through the Ministry of Foreign and Diaspora Affairs (MFDA)," but copy the correspondence to MFDA.

This is notwithstanding the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations that entrusts official business to be transacted through the MFDA, which the NV alluded to.

The NV further communicated that, in the interest of coordination, the Missions were required, to report to MFDA deliberations and decisions taken between them and the MDAs within three days.

Further, "requests of meetings of cross-cutting nature and that involve more than one ministry... should be made through the office of the Deputy President for coordination purposes."

The main functions of the MFDA are the management of Kenya's Missions and Embassies abroad, the implementation of diplomatic principles and policies and related laws and regulations, including treaties, Agreements, and Conventions to which Kenya is a Party; safeguarding our national sovereignty, security, and interests, running diplomatic affairs on behalf of the state and the government and ensuring liaison with Foreign Missions in Kenya including the administration of Diplomatic Privileges and Immunities in accordance with international conventions and handling diplomatic activities between Kenya's leaders and foreign ones.

The practice and the tradition maintained until March 1, 2023 was that all diplomatic business and relations be transacted through the MFDA. Among the reasons for this are to ensure, efficiency, coordination, consistency, institutional memory, and uniformity. MFDA is also the only ministry charged with implementing foreign policy and managing diplomatic relations on behalf of the President and people of Kenya. No other ministry can implement the policy or officially conduct diplomatic relations on its behalf.

In this regard, the MFDA has diplomats and officials specifically skilled and trained on diplomatic relations and protocols that no other MDA is required to have in order to carry out its mandate.

The types of communications, resolutions and decisions done through diplomatic relations follow certain languages, protocols, and procedures that are internationally agreed upon and stipulated to ensure universality and uniformity.

The diplomats and officials of MFDA are equipped with the necessary skills, expertise, credentials, and knowledge to ensure they can deal with diplomatic relations efficiently and effectively. They are specially trained on Kenya's foreign policy for both bilateral and multilateral relations.

Although we tend to forget, Nairobi is the only UN headquarters in the Global South and therefore it plays a critical role in also representing countries in the Caribbean, Latin America, Asia, and the Pacific.

The other three UN Headquarters are Vienna, Geneva, and New York. The UN Office in Nairobi (UNON) should be the World's Environment Capital, but Western countries continue to slowly chip away at its meetings/conferences and related environmental functions.

UNON is also concerned with UN-HABITAT. These are critical agencies especially now that climate change and environmental degradation are existential threats to our very human existence.

Kenya is critical to the UN and in fact has played key roles including the birthing of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), significant contributions to the financing of SDGs, Science, Technology, and Innovation, to mention but a few.

Kenya plays leading roles in international and regional peace and security, stability, and democracy. Therefore, the need to ensure its diplomatic efficiency and coordination cannot be gainsaid.