The Strategic Art of Appeasing Old Lovers while Courting New Friends: Kenya’s Foreign Relations in Retrospect

By Mumo Nzau




As Kenya marks fifty years of independence, the picture is painted in different circles of a state whose foreign relations outlook has undergone a major paradigmatic shift over the past decade or so. Subsequently, she has increasingly been portrayed as having significantly drifted away from her traditional Western allies.


As such, stronger relations with emergent global powers, such as China, coupled with an enhanced regional focus have taken center stage in this supposedly “new” foreign policy orientation. This line of thought also came at a time when Kenya’s newly elected fourth president, Uhuru Kenyatta, and his deputy, William Ruto, were facing charges at the International Criminal Court (ICC)—a state of affairs that was viewed as partly responsible for the perceived widening gap between Kenya and her bosom partners of many years, mainly Great Britain and the United States.


In this chapter however, I contend that despite this apparent shift in the nature and conduct of Kenya’s foreign policy, her ties with both Great Britain and the United States are actually deeper and immensely important than otherwise portrayed. Taking on a retrospective-descriptive perspective, the case is made herein for a more holistic approach to the subject at hand.


To this end, I take the position that the conduct of Kenya’s foreign relations since independence is the product of the strategic art of appeasing old lovers while courting new friends.

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