Interview : Monica Juma

How is the country engaged in pursuing peace and security in East Africa?

MONICA JUMA: Peace and security are at the centre of Kenya’s foreign policy. Since independence, we have contributed to more than 44 international peacekeeping missions around the world. We are an active contributor to the African Union Mission in Somalia and are engaged in the search for peace in South Sudan. Stability in every East African state is a key objective of our foreign policy because regional instability negatively impacts the prosperity of Kenya and the region. The region is still fragile economically, ecologically and in terms of security, which manifests itself in transnational crimes such as piracy, terrorism and human trafficking.

What are Kenya’s goals for regional integration?

JUMA: President Uhuru Kenyatta has advocated for removing barriers to East African trade by focussing on the establishment of stronger collaborations, deeper integration and openness. This creates a larger pool for developing industries who are then able to compete on the world market. Intraregional trade has been bolstered by improvements to physical infrastructure in the Port of Mombasa, which serves as an entry point and gateway for commerce, and the completion of the Standard-Gauge Railway project ahead of schedule has been equally important. Moreover, this commitment is tied to the awareness that Kenya’s prosperity is inextricably linked to that of the region. Kenya was the first country to implement the East African e-passport and to push for further interconnectivity, granting residence to nationals of other countries in the region. In addition, Kenya has been at the forefront of negotiations for the African Continental Free Trade Area and for the Tripartite Free Trade Area, both of which have already been ratified. In Africa, integration will be driven by three critical pillars: the free flow of capital, people and goods, and services. Lastly, the country is focusing on cooperating with a wider range of regions. The Indian Ocean Rim Association is of particular interest, given its strategic and economic importance.

How does the Kenyan diaspora support the country’s long-term objectives?

JUMA: The importance of the diaspora is indisputable. It is living proof of the ingenuity and skills of Kenyans abroad. The amount of remittances and their contribution to the economy through investment and trade is significant and is expected to increase in the years ahead. Kenya has recognised this trajectory and has put in place the institutional framework to help optimise the value of this critical resource: the Ministry of Foreign Affairs has a directorate whose mandate is to incorporate the inputs of the Kenyan diaspora into our development programmes and agenda. The mandate is drawn from a national diaspora policy and each of our diplomatic missions is tasked to implement it. As a result, discussions among the country’s leadership and members of the diaspora are frequent. This growing and structured engagement can be illustrated by the diaspora’s significant interest in participating in those projects related to the Big Four agenda.

What is being done in terms of diplomacy and government training in Kenya?

JUMA: The importance of having well-trained officers in our foreign service is driven by the growing demand for Kenya’s leadership and the imperative of responding to a fast-changing global environment. In light of this, our Foreign Service Academy provides diplomatic training for the foreign service and for the rest of the government. It is still a nascent institution that is being revamped to support our nation’s long-term geostrategic aspirations. We are also forging and strengthening partnerships with similar entities across the globe to increase cultural awareness, and explore and seize emerging opportunities while adapting to a constantly changing international landscape strewn with risks.