Obama visit: How Kenya won back the West

Kenya has slowly but surely fought its way back to the charming arms of the international community — more so the West.
That fight, aided by the evil of global terrorism, was finally crowned by the just-ended three-day tour by US President Barack Obama.
Experts in international relations were yesterday in agreement that Kenya, which was treated as a rogue democracy after the March 2013 General Election that saw the Jubilee Coalition take over power, is now firmly back in the fold of the international community.
However, Kenya’s former ambassador to the UN Ochieng’ Adala and Prof Peter Kagwanja, who heads the Africa Policy Institute, and Prof David Kikaya of United States International University in Nairobi, argued that Kenya’s strategic position globally in the fight against terrorism played a part.
“The visit (by President Obama) shows that Kenya has been accepted back by the West. This is simply because the West respects the rule of law,” said Prof Kagwanja by phone.
He noted that the visit, and the “brotherhood” displayed by Mr Obama towards President Kenyatta, spoke more words than their speeches.
“What has come out of the visit, and President Obama giving prominence to Kenyatta like they are two brothers was a clear affirmation that Kenya is no more isolated. It will become very difficult for any other country in the West or someone to vilify Kenya,” he said.
Prof Kikaya said the visit had repaired Kenya’s image in the international community, boosted its role in the fight against terrorism and given the world an insight into its capacity to host the leader of the free world.
“It has mended fences created by the last elections and utterances of politicians against the ICC (International Criminal Court). The fact that he was here, spoke openly about terror and shared responsibility, goes a long way to say Kenya is not alone,” he said.
Choices and consequences
In February 2013, US Assistant Secretary of State Johnnie Carson had warned Kenyans against electing President Kenyatta and his deputy William Ruto, who had been indicted by the ICC.
“We live in an interconnected world and people should be thoughtful about the impact that their choices have on their nation, on the region, on the economy, on the society and on the world in which they live. Choices have consequences,” he said.
Britain and the European Union took the cue, warning they would limit their engagement with the newly elected government to “essential matters”.
While the West adopted the “wait-and-see” policy to see whether President Kenyatta and Mr Ruto would renege on their pledge to attend the trials, Kenya resorted to whipping up African countries against the isolation.
In between, Kenya, which has troops in Somalia, has been attacked by Al-Shabaab militants dozens of times.
Mr Adala argued that the West had no reason to isolate Kenya from the global community after ICC dropped President Kenyatta’s case in December last year.
“The West respects the rule of law. When Uhuru’s case was at the ICC, they kept off, maintaining essential contact. After withdrawal of the case, the West also accepted. That is the rule of the law,” he said.