Prime Cabinet Secretary and Minister of Foreign Affairs Musalia Mudavadi and US Secretary of State Antony Blinken on Thursday held talks over the instability in the East African region.
A readout by the State Department quoted Blinken as saying the two states are increasingly working together not only on the bilateral issues and opportunities but also to deal with regional and global challenges.
“The work that Kenya is doing to promote regional peace and security, the efforts that we’re also making together to deepen and strengthen our economic relationship – all of these I think are very important and positive signs of the depth and breadth of the relationship,” Blinken said.
Following the talks, Mudavadi said they discussed peace and security issues, including regional conflicts in East Africa, as well as disruption of global logistics by the Middle East crisis. This week, Kenya was the only Horn of Africa country to publicly in a joint statement endorse airstrikes on the Iran-backed Houthi for targeting ships in the Red Sea.
“Our engagement in Washington DC focused on Kenya and US mediation efforts to mitigate the disruptive impact of these crises on the people and economies of the region,” Mudavdi said.
In April 2023, the two states held the US-Kenya Bilateral Strategic Dialogue in Washington, D.C., where Blinken and then Foreign Affairs Minister Dr. Alfred Mutua discussed strengthening the bilateral ties across all five pillars of the strategic partnership and advancing peace and prosperity in Kenya, Africa and beyond.
The five pillars were economic prosperity, trade, and investment; defense cooperation; democracy, governance, and civilian security; multilateral and regional issues and health cooperation.
During the April talks, the US said it would continue supporting Kenya’s contributions to regional security in Ethiopia, Somalia, and the DRC, even as it commended Kenya’s leadership in supporting peace initiatives in the eastern DRC.
It pledged to continue providing financial and logistical support to the East African Community-led Nairobi Process, and offered to work with Kenya’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs to increase its capacity to support regional peace negotiations.
On the first pillar, the two states committed to further increase two-way trade and investment cooperation through the Kenya-U.S. Strategic Trade and Investment Partnership and by prioritizing economic and commercial programs. Through these joint efforts, they sought to work towards creating at least one million new jobs per year in Kenya and greatly reduce food insecurity over the next five years.
It is in this regards that prior to Mudavadi’s visit to Washington the Kenya-U.S. Strategic Trade and Investment Partnership negotiations resumed after failing to meet the December 2023 set deadline.
According to Mudavadi, the trade talks featured in his deliberations with Blinken where he “responded positively to my request for expedited negotiations of the Kenya-US Strategic Trade and Investment Partnership (STIP) and for the US to consider extending the African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA) beyond its expiry next year”.
These initiatives, Mudavadi noted, will facilitate expanded duty and quota free access for Kenya’s and Africa’s exports to the US market.
The PCS added that they also agreed to “continue plans to better the lives of the Haitian people” through a deployment of 1,000 Kenyan Police officers in a UN authorized multi-national deployment mission to the Caribbean country that is struggling with gang violence.
The US has pledged $100 million to the Kenya-led mission, with Secretary of Defense Lloyd J. Austin holding talks with Kenya’s Defence Cabinet Secretary Aden Duale over the matter in Nairobi in September 2023. It was Austin’s first trip across Africa as Secretary of Defense.
“The United States stands ready to support that important mission by providing robust financial and logistical assistance. And we intend to work with the United States Congress to provide up to $100 million in support. And we urge others in the international community to follow Kenya’s great example and to step up to provide more personnel, equipment, support, training, and funding,” he said in Nairobi.
The deployment is, however, facing headwinds after the courts in Kenya termed it unconstitutional.
“An order is hereby issued prohibiting the purported deployment of police officers to Haiti or any other country, otherwise and in contrary with Sections 107 and 108 of the National Police Service (NPS) Act,” High Court Judge Chacha Mwita ruled on January 26.
Justice Mwita said Kenya’s National Security Council, which is led by the President, does not have the authority to deploy the police outside the country.
Section 107 and 108 of the NPS Act provides circumstances and procedure of deploying the Kenya Police to a foreign country.
Section 107 says such a deployment must be to a “reciprocating country”, which means “any country which the President may, being satisfied that the law of that country contains provisions reciprocal to this Part and that Kenya is or shall be declared a reciprocating country for the purpose of those provisions, by notice in the Gazette, declare to be a reciprocating country”.
Section 108 (1) on service of officers in reciprocating country provides the President may, on the application of the government of a reciprocating country, order such number of police officers as the President may think fit to proceed to that country for service therein for the purpose of assisting the police service of that country in a temporary emergency.
But ruled that it is not contested there is no reciprocal arrangement between Kenya and Haiti and for that reason, there can be no deployment of police to the country.
Lawyer Ekuru Aukot, among the petitioners, further argues that such an arrangement can’t be foreseeable as there in no legitimate government in Haiti.
President William Ruto, however, on Tuesday told Reuters that the deployment would continue despite the ruling.
“So that mission can go ahead as soon as next week, if all the paperwork is done between Kenya and Haiti on the bilateral route that has been suggested by the court,” Ruto said following an Italian-Africa summit in Rome.
In regards to the fourth pillar – Multilateral and Regional Issues – Mudavadi held talks with USAID Administrator Ambassador Samantha Power “to explore avenues for enhancing Kenya’s economy and improving livelihoods”.
“Ms. Power commended Kenya’s innovative Ushirika plan, fostering social inclusion for refugees and benefiting host communities. USAID remains a steadfast partner in energy, livelihood, health, and climate resilience programs,” Mudavadi said.
Under the pillar, US and Kenya agreed to work jointly to respond to the growing humanitarian needs stemming from food insecurity and forced displacement in the region, especially after the unprecedented drought and resulting food insecurity in the region last year.
“The United States commended Kenya’s role as a generous and longstanding host of refugees from neighboring countries. The two countries committed to supporting economic development, investment in refugee-hosting communities, and promoting self-reliance. The United States and Kenya committed to working together with the United Nations and other partners to support the transition of refugee camps to integrated settlements,” State Department said in a statement in April.