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Kenya -- Foreign Relations

Kenya's foreign policy is best seen in terms of its political and economic moderation and of its continuing reliance on the Western world. Its most significant international affiliations are with the East African Community, the Organization of African Unity and the Commonwealth of Nations.

Kenya, Uganda and Tanzania have made two attempts to unite in a regional organization since they gained independence. In each case, the nations sought a loose federation underpinned by an economic common market. In 1961, the three countries formed the East African Common Services Organization (EACSO), in which a shared and centralized administration was to provide services, including transportation, communication, tax collection, scientific research, social services and university education. The EACSO charter was also to create a common currency, a common appellate court, and a common market in which goods and labor could circulate freely. These were to be directed by a central legislative assembly. By 1965, the EACSO began to come apart due to growing tendencies toward nationalism and diverging economic and political policies. In 1967, a new organization was founded under the rubric of the East African Community (EAC), established under the Treaty for East African Cooperation. This time, Tanzania's move toward socialism and Uganda's national misfortunes under the brutal regime of Idi Amin led to the dissolution of the cooperative effort. By 1977, the community was inoperative and by 1983, it was formally dissolved. Relations among the countries improved when the community's assets were redistributed and when relations with Tanzania improved in the wake of the agreement. But new tensions arose in the late 1980's when Uganda accused Kenya of supporting opponents of Uganda's government and when Kenya responded by alleging that Uganda had conducted incursions into Kenyan territory.

By the early 1990's, however, a push for regional integration was again making itself felt. The presidents of Tanzania, Uganda, and Kenya held a conference about reestablishing cooperation in Arusha, Tanzania in November 1993. A permanent tri-national commission, once again named the East African Cooperation (EAC), was inaugurated in March 1996, whose first secretary-general, Francis Muthaura, was Kenyan. This cooperative effort was more modest in its ambitions, mainly emphasizing cooperation in transport, energy, the management of Lake Victoria and cross-border trade. Uganda and Tanzania are presently the two leading export markets, with Kenyan manufacturers the principal beneficiaries. The nations' three currencies are now convertible, and in April 1997 the three presidents oversaw the introduction of an EAC flag and passport. Accords on tariffs are being discussed, and discussions of monetary policy are being conducted by the nations' central bank governors.[1]

Kenya's relations with its neighbors to the north have been far less harmonious. North-eastern Kenya has been a source of conflict because Somalia has traditional claims on the territory; a large ethnic Somali population has also led to instability. Somalia's irredentist claims on this region were a serious threat to Kenya in the 1960's. For four years, Somali guerrillas known as shiftas waged a campaign against the Kenyan police and army through incursions and by means of the Voice of Somali radio based in Mogadishu. This tense predicament was eased when the Somali government changed in 1967, but it revived in 1977 when Somali-Ethiopian warfare once again placed the area in contention after Kenya supported Ethiopia in the Ogaden war. The predicament was exacerbated when Kenya's relations with Arab nations worsened after Kenya seized an Egyptian plane transporting arms to the Somali forces. Tensions have since died down; reflecting this, President Moi made an unprecedented visit to Mogadishu in 1984 to negotiate border claims aand promote trade cooperation

Kenya's most significant ally in the West is Great Britain. The two nations have maintained uninterrupted friendly relations since independence. Britain remains Kenya's principal trading partner, its chief source of economic and military assistance, and its major provider of private investment capital. The British government has traditionally practiced "quiet diplomacy" with Kenya, a policy it considers to bring about the greatest influence on Kenya.

Relations with the United States, which were uneasy during Oginga Odinga's ascendancy, have improved since Odinga's fall in 1966. In 1980, Kenya and the US signed an agreement to permit the American military to use Kenyan sea and air bases in exchange for economic and military assistance. The US presence in Kenya now consists of over 5,000 American citizens. An active USAID and Peace Corps program in Kenya has further increased this presence, as have growing American business interests. Over 125 US firms are represented in Kenya, bringing in an investment of over $200 million. Past relations with the Soviet Union and China, by contrast, have been cool and tentative, and have been marred by a number of diplomatic incidents.[2]

Kenya joined the United Nations at Independence in 1963, and is presently a member of 15 UN organizations and 22 other international organizations.

[1] The Economist Intelligence Unit, 1998, Country Profile. Kenya, The Unit:

London, p. 10.

[2] Kurian, George Thomas 1992. Encyclopedia of the Third World, fourth edition,

volume III, Facts on File: New York, N.Y., p. 976.


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