Tour of duty memorable

President William Ruto with outgoing British High Commissioner to Kenya Jane Marriott at State House, Nairobi

President William Ruto with outgoing British High Commissioner to Kenya Jane Marriott at State House, Nairobi on June 6, 2023.

Photo credit: PCS

After four amazing years, my time in Kenya has ended. I will miss Kenya and Kenyans enormously. I have spent my final weeks reminiscing and reflecting on Kenya. It holds an increasingly important place in the region and world.

As British High Commissioner, I have seen the UK-Kenya partnership go from strength to strength—whether in trade, security and advancement of key green, clean infrastructure projects. I attended Thursday’s ground-breaking of the Menengai geothermal plant—UK investment and Kenyan climate leadership will see it provide affordable electricity for 750,000 Kenyans.

I have also seen Kenya, under both President Uhuru Kenyatta and President William Ruto, taking positive, activist roles to develop mutual solutions to pressing shared issues. Its leadership and convening power is and continues to be, key to addressing conflicts and promoting peace, stability and security.

On Kenya’s borders and further afield are a multitude of complex geopolitical issues to which it has turned its attention and expertise. None has quick fixes or simple solutions. What they need is strong partnerships and a determination to uphold the rules-based international system, to press for peace and resolution, even when things get tough.

In the past year, Kenya played a crucial role in the cessation of hostilities in Ethiopia; as an Atmis and Front Line States troop contributor in Somalia to counter Al-Shabaab; and kick-starting the political and military tracks for dialogue with armed groups in eastern DRC. South Sudan is going through a transition while we saw the tragic eruption of violence in Sudan. Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has had global ramifications, reminding us all of the vulnerabilities of globalisation and our interconnectedness.

International multilateral order

All these issues and more are a priority for the international multilateral order, which provides the framework to resolve conflict and promote a better, more peaceful world. I was delighted to see Kenya take up a seat on the UNSC and the leadership role it is playing in the AU, Igad and EAC.

We hear President Ruto’s call for multilateral reform, including of the international financial institutions; permanent UNSC seat for Africa; and his driving of the continental and global response to climate change. The UK-Kenya partnership has never been stronger. Whether UN, regional or global agenda items, we are working together for peace, security and prosperity for our peoples and the wider world.

Kenya’s determination to promote international norms for a more peaceful world was clear in Permanent Representative to the UN Martin Kimani’s powerful speech to the UNSC; he reaffirmed respect for Ukraine’s territorial integrity and sovereignty, “rejecting irredentism and expansionism”.

We all want lasting peace between Russia and Ukraine. Under the UN Charter, we must uphold international humanitarian law, human rights and media freedom. The quickest path to peace is, of course, for Russia to withdraw from Ukraine. But it has escalated attacks on civilians and critical national infrastructure and displaced eight million people. The war has contributed significantly to the cost of living crisis impacting the Kenyan and British people and some of the world’s most vulnerable.

Kenya’s Consumer Price Index has risen by 12 per cent, general food prices are up 10 per cent on 12 months ago and wheat and maize flour are up 14 per cent and 31 per cent, respectively. We have felt similar impacts on fuel and fertiliser. Just as Kenya is working to bring prices down, the UK is supporting efforts by the World Food Programme (WFP), the UN and others to reduce the impact of the war on global commodities—just recently, Kenya received a shipment of fertiliser provided by the WFP.

The list of shared challenges Kenya and its neighbours and global partners face may seem daunting but the past four years have shown me that, by working together, in real and equal partnership, the UK and Kenya can make a real difference. As I hand over the reins to my wonderful successor, Neil Wigan, I hope we will continue to, together, protect international norms, promote peace and, in doing so, create a more prosperous Kenya, Africa and the world for years to come. I will be cheering Kenya on, every step of the way. Tufaulu pamoja!

Ms Marriott is the outgoing British High Commissioner to Kenya. @JaneMarriottUK @UKinKenya