Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Kenya-US relations a cycle of friendship

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Kenya-US relations a cycle of friendship

President Uhuru Kenyatta and US Secretary of State John Kerry lead talks between Kenyan and US delegations at State House, Nairobi on May 4, 2015. PHOTO | PSCU


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Two years ago, it would have been difficult to imagine the scenes that played out recently in this country.
Former American President Bill Clinton was in town with his daughter, visiting with local communities. The two were soon followed by American Secretary of State John Kerry.
Relations between Kenya and the West, and particularly the United States of America, have had a strong foundation from the days of the famous airlift.
From the relative trickle of the 1960s, thousands of young Kenyans travel to the United States every year, seeking an education. Justice Thurgood Marshall, that distinguished American legal mind, visited Kenya and was one of the framers of the Constitution under which this country won independence.
The independence Constitution survived a near half-century because it captured the aspirations of Kenyans: equality under law, freedom of speech, the right to private property, and tolerance of different faiths.
We share these values with the Americans and where it mattered, like in the Horn of Africa, Kenyans and Americans have stood together to defend these values.
Trade between Kenya and the US has been strong over the years and it can only grow. The opportunities are numerous: in energy, infrastructure, agriculture (especially agro-processing), tourism, services, retail, manufacturing, and IT.
Kenya has maintained political stability, economic steadiness, and fiscal discipline in the past few years.
The US has recognised that the time is ripe for a new partnership with Africa. The US Africa leadership summit, during which President Uhuru Kenyatta met President Barack Obama and former presidents George W Bush and Bill Clinton, was an expression of this recognition and the revitalised relationship.
So, has Kenya’s foreign policy shifted its focus from West to East? I see Kenya’s position as remaining as it has always been: seeking a balanced engagement with traditional friends while at the same time taking advantage of new opportunities.
And so our leadership and that of America are exploring old paths. One of the issues that President Kenyatta and Mr Kerry discussed was the ease of doing business in Kenya.
Kenya has been at the forefront of integration in East Africa, clearly understanding that it is the region’s path to shared prosperity. It has been an ardent supporter of opening up borders, has strongly supported a customs union and encouraged the drive towards a political federation.
America would do well to partner with us, particularly in the area of securing the homeland, thus the importance of the discussions between Mr Kerry and President Kenyatta on security training, intelligence sharing, and regional peace initiatives.
In choosing these themes, Kenya and America are revitalising their relationship. That strengthening of relations between Kenya and the US, as well as between the US and the region, will be taken a notch higher when President Obama visits Kenya in July, completing a circle that began many years ago. Partnerships such as these guarantee stability, bring about prosperity, bolster values, and protect and preserve security.
Prof Obonyo is the dean, School of Communications, Language and Performing Arts at Daystar University. @Obonyolevi

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