Tuesday, May 17, 2016

A pitiable foreign policy

We owe it, therefore, to candor and to the amicable relations existing between the United States and those powers to declare that we should consider any attempt on their part to extend their system to any portion of this hemisphere as dangerous to our peace and safety. ~ The Monroe Doctrine
It must be the policy of the United States to support free people who are resisting attempted subjugation by armed minorities or by outside pressures. ~ The Truman Doctrine
Of course I oversimplify. In this oversimplification, please remember that the salient features of each doctrine can be discerned and they go to the heart of the US foreign policy. The United States defines itself in the comity of nations by its foreign policy, which divides the world into friends, foes, adversaries, challengers, enemies and rogue states.

What is Uhuru Kenyatta's signature foreign policy stance? Is it deepening ties with China and India, a Look East stance if you will? Is it a rebalancing of the relationship with London and Washington DC, an autonomy stance? Is it a doubling down on anti-terror activities in its near-abroad? What is the Kenyatta Doctrine? Given recent setbacks, it is not possible to state that President Kenyatta has a doctrine.

Kenya's position in the Horn of Africa is as a stable economic power, a gateway to foreign investors in this part of Africa. While Kenya relies a great deal on agriculture and tourism, it has a robust services sector, especially in financial services that makes it an ideal destination for investors looking for opportunities in the members of the East African Community and the wider Horn of Africa, including in Ethiopia, Southern Sudan and Somalia. However, Kenya has chosen to embroil itself in the political disputes of its neighbours and the premium placed on its stable economy has taken a beating.

Kenya's economy would have formed the basis for President Kenyatta's foreign policy, and with it he could have articulated a doctrine. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Trade has failed to lead the way, having been hamstrung by its orders to sort out Kenya's problems with the International Criminal Court. At a time when at least one Kenyan is a force to be reckoned with in international economic policy (Mukhisa Kiyuyi at the United Nations Commission on Trade and Development, UNCTAD), Kenya's international trade stance is being overshadowed by setbacks in oil and gas exploration and regional transport.

It is an election year, more or less, and it is unlikely that the President is thinking hard on how to reorient his foreign policy stance to take advantage of Kenya's natural assets. Given the relative international trade and international economic policy weaknesses in the foreign affairs ministry, this is not a situation that will change before the 2017 general election. Instead, we are to be treated to an absurd theatre regarding refugees and the war on terror. More's the pity.

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