Kenya Foreign Policy

By | May 1, 2021

Kenya in a regional and international context

For decades Kenya appeared to its western partners as a haven of stability in a problematic environment. Whether genocide in Rwanda, civil war in South Sudan, state failure in Somalia, civil war in Ethiopia or Idi Amin’s and Obote’s dictatorships and civil war in Uganda – by comparison, Kenya has always been a haven of peace and a logistical and diplomatic center for all aid and mediation efforts. Economically, the country is still twice or three times as strong as its neighbors Tanzania and Uganda and claims a leading role in the East African Community EAC.

Relations with Uganda, which has drawn troops not only in Somalia, but also in South Sudan, are becoming increasingly problematic. There, Uganda’s President Museveni supports his brother Salva Kiir. Kenya is currently opposed to major military interference there, even though the UN and AU have asked for it. But Kenya fears that it will lose its mediator role if it becomes too involved in the military. The country has repeatedly exposed itself to the African Peer Review Mechanism, a review of political and economic progress by African partner countries, as agreed in the days of Thabo Mbeki and Olusegun Obasanjo.

As a major country in African continent according to neovideogames, Kenya mostly played a constructive role in brokering peace agreements in Sudan and Somalia and continues to play a key role in the Intergovernmental Authority for Development (IGAD). Nairobi has been the headquarters of the long-planned East African Intervention Brigade EASF, formerly EASBRICOM, since 2014, and it is also one of the largest bases of the United Nations with the headquarters of the UNEP environmental program and the Habitat settlement program.

Relations with the United States and Great Britain are particularly close, for historical and security reasons, which was underscored by several visits by President Kenyatta to US President Donald Trump in the White House in August 2018. A little later, Great Britain’s Prime Minister Theresa May was received in the Nairobi State House on her first trip to Africa in five years.

Japan is highly regarded as one of the big donors, China is now the largest creditor, but Germany also enjoys a good reputation as a partner in Kenya, and relations between the two countries can be described as stable and resilient. The diplomatic license plate with the number 1 CD was assigned to the Federal Republic of Germany after independence, which at that time was interpreted as a sign of a pro-Western course.

War against Somalia’s Islamists

After several attacks and kidnappings, allegedly by members of the radical Islamic Al-Shabab militia in Somalia, Kenya saw its national integrity and the important tourism business on the coast threatened and entered southern Somalia in mid-October 2011 with its own troops. It is the first war Kenya has waged since independence, and it has since become clear that it is beyond the country’s military and financial resources. Operation Linda Nchi (Protect the Land) has its own facebook account and relies on public support. But the Kenyan army is quite small with 24,000 men, it has so far not been able to destroy all Shabab positions in southern Somalia, even if the last bastion of Kismayo was captured in autumn 2012. Kenya cannot bear the costs of the conflict. There are also indications of war crimes committed by the Kenyan military. In the meantime, allegations have also emerged that the Kenyan military were enriching themselves in the charcoal and sugar trade in Kismayo, Somalia, and that they were participating in the enemy, Al-Shabab. According to the renowned Foreign Policy magazine, it is about 50 million US dollars a year.

With their Somalia mission, the Kenyans came under a mandate from the UN and joined the AMISOM mission in Somaliain which Ugandan and Burundian soldiers in particular are trying to secure the survival of the internationally recognized Somali transitional government in Mogadishu. But the Somali extremists have since intensified their terrorist attacks. There were fatal attacks on security forces in the border area in eastern Kenya as well as in Mombasa and Nairobi. The threat of terrorism, especially in the Nairobi metropolitan area, was recently seen as increased, but warnings and threats were either ignored or not implemented; Al-Shabab, associated with al-Qaeda, had already proven in two fatal attacks in Kampala in July 2010 with 74 fatalities that they can also operate outside Somalia. At the moment they are also a military threat again and are even recapturing bases from the Kenyans, who in January 2016 in El-Adde in Western Somalia suffered the heaviest losses since 2011.

The Somali crisis, which Kenya has pursued since the state was founded, has a humanitarian component in addition to its relevance for security. The Dadaab refugee camp in eastern Kenya, which has been providing refuge to Somali refugees since the early 1990’s, has now grown into the largest camp of its kind with at times more than 400,000 residents. The Kenyatta government wants to close the camp and repatriate the Somalis, ostensibly for security reasons. But the project has met with criticism, for humanitarian reasons, but also because the supply of what is actually the third largest city in the country is a major economic factor.

In particular, the devastating droughts of recent years and the civil war are beyond the ability of the Somalis to persevere. Many thousands, especially children and the elderly, died in 2011 because the emergency aid did not reach them and / or they did not survive the way to the camps in Kenya and Ethiopia. Stabilizing Somalia after more than two decades of civil war is therefore also in the national interest of neighboring Kenya. Marc Engelhardt and Bettina Rühl provide an understandable overview of the Somalia problem with their book “Somalia – Warlords, Islamists, Investors”.

The Kenyatta years have been characterized by an unparalleled construction boom since 2013

The Kenyatta years have been characterized by an unparalleled construction boom since 2013

In the focus of terror

East Africa’s powerhouse has repeatedly been the scene of spectacular terrorist attacks by Islamists. The attacks have increased since the war against Somalia’s Al-Shabab militia began in October 2011. Kenya is an important Western ally, and until a few years ago Nairobi was one of the largest US embassies in Africa – that may be one of the reasons be why Kenya repeatedly came into the focus of extremists. The events listed here belong to the collective memory of Kenyans:

1980 – The Norfolk Hotel is bombed

1998 – Embassy Bombings Nairobi and Dar es Salaam

2002 – Suicide attack on the Paradise Hotel in Kikambala on the north coast and rocket attack on an Israeli passenger jet

2012 – Explosives and hand grenade attacks in North Eastern, Nairobi and Mombasa

2013 – 67 dead after attack on Westgate Mall in Nairobi Westland

2014 – Fatal attacks on people on the coast, including Mpeketoni

2015 – Attack on the University of Garissa

2016 – Attack on Kenyan garrison in El-Adde, Somalia

2019 – the attack from Riverside Drive

The originators and the number of victims of the attacks were not always comparable, and not all of the attacks were resolved. There was regularly criticism of inadequate knowledge by the secret services in advance, of amateur counter-terrorism during the attacks, inadequate disaster relief afterwards and of the investigations. The hurdles for attackers may have become a little higher, but in January 2019 Al-Shabab proved that the terrorists can still carry out attacks in the metropolis of Nairobi. According to an analysis by the Crisis Group, the situation in the northeast is particularly desolate where the Al-Shabab terror made education, building and technical progress almost impossible and displaced entire population groups. The vicious circle of the uneducation caused by terror and neglect and the recruitment of young people with no prospects for terror seems to be closed there.