Kenya's diplomatic delusion gets deeper

Kenya seems obsessed with the International Criminal Court and its indictment against President Uhuru Kenyatta. The chest-thumping is 'misguided.'

Noor Khamis/Reuters
Kenya's President Uhuru Kenyatta arrives to attend Mashujaa (Heroes) Day at the Nyayo National Stadium in capital Nairobi October 20, 2013.

A version of this post originally appeared on An Africanist Perspective blog. The views expressed are the author's own. 

So far the International Criminal Court question has been the singular preoccupation of the Kenyatta administration. It appears that the Kenyan government is willing to pull out all the stops to halt the cases against the president and his deputy.

Sadly, instead of a sober approach to the process of doing so, Nairobi has chosen to antagonize both the Hague court and the West.

As I have argued before, Kenya has leverage vis-a-vis the West (security in the Horn and Somalia in particular; its status as host to regional diplomatic and aid efforts; and role as the biggest economy and potential gateway to the region) that it can use in a smart way to get concessions from Washington, London and Paris on key issues. Rather than wish for a restructured P5 (click here), Nairobi should think of how to get its way with the current one.

Instead of the misguided chest-thumping about hollow sovereignty in a Chinese built conference hall in Addis under the banner of an organization partly funded by the EU, Nairobi could have chosen a different path.

Writing in the Daily Nation, Paul Mwangi, in a nutshell describes what is wrong with Kenya’s current approach to international diplomacy (Must read, more here):

The reality is that gone are the days when we were the “island of peace” in an unpredictable and violent part of the world. Over time, the world around us has changed, but we are yet to wake up and smell the coffee. Ethiopia is no longer in civil war and is quickly becoming a better investment opportunity for manufacturers both due to the low price of its electricity and the size of its population, about 90 million people. It is one of the fastest-growing economies in the world.

Tanzania is no longer socialist and is now the darling of America. Apart from its own vast mineral, oil and gas deposits, Tanzania is the new gateway to the DRC and is receiving mammoth investment from both China and America. 

China is building what is being called a “mega port” for Tanzania at Bagamoyo, which is more than 30 times the size of Mombasa, as part of a $10 billion investment package for Tanzania. When completed, it is bound to take away all central Africa business from Mombasa port, which will be left to serve only Kenya and Uganda.

Let us stop comparing ourselves with other countries. The painful truth is that Kenya is not Syria. In the Middle East, Syria is the only foothold for China and Russia. The rest of the countries are either fundamentalist or pro-Western. In Africa, China and Russia are spoilt for even better choices.

They will only go so far to help us out [Indeed some have started asking if the Afro-Chinese engagement has peaked].

The complete lack of tact that Mr. Mwangi points out will no doubt be on display this afternoon as the National Assembly debates Kenya-UK relations (Recently Kenyan MPs allied to the president have chosen to prove their loyalty by taking extreme positions on the ICC issue).

This comes in the wake of the UK’s support of an amendment of the ICC statutes to allow Mr. Kenyatta and his deputy to attend their trials via video-link; and stated opposition to granting sitting presidents full immunity from any prosecution under international law while in office as has been demanded by Kenya.

The hurdle remains high for the Kenyan (AU) amendment proposals to the Assembly of Member States, especially after it emerged that 9 African states may not be illegible to vote on account of not having paid their dues.

According to a recent poll, 67% of Kenyans are of the opinion that President Kenyatta should attend trial at the Hague in person to clear his name.

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