What you need to know:
- Mr Tillerson’s first trip to Kenya will involve discussions on wildlife protection and the status of the African Union.
- Mr Tillerson earlier this week vowed to continue supporting the African Union’s (AU) fight against the Al-Shabaab in Somalia.
Growing debt, trade and regional security could punctuate the visit by US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, even as Kenya remained bullish about its democratic credentials.
On Thursday, Foreign Affairs Cabinet Secretary Monica Juma told reporters in Nairobi Mr Tillerson’s first trip to Kenya will involve discussions on wildlife protection, the status of the African Union and “people-people” engagements.
And amid calls by former US diplomats for Kenya to choose dialogue, Dr Juma argued there is demonstrable evidence the country is run by the law.
“We have demonstrated our desire to deepen our fidelity to the Constitution. Everyone is looking at us and asking: 'How do you do it? How do you run two elections in 60 days? How do you have so much media freedom in that environment?'" Dr Juma enumerated, referring to the protracted 2017 electoral crisis that saw the annulment of the August 8 election, and a fresh one on October 26 boycotted by the opposition.
“We have a trajectory of democratic deepening that is unparalleled in the world. Kenya has played a trailblazing role in opening up of democratic spaces,” the CS said.
However, Mr Tillerson, a former oil executive, arrives at a time the US is seeking to reclaim its image in global affairs, defend its interest through ‘America first’ policy and seek to counter China’s rising influence in Africa.
Last week, top State Department officials told reporters via teleconference that Mr Tillerson will be looking at how African resources can benefit its people, and avoid huge debts.
“We are looking at how to really keep African resources and development beneficial for the people of Africa. Right now we are looking at the growing indebtedness in Africa. That’s not a good thing,” a Senior State Department official said in an event whose ground rules restricted identifying the officials.
Mr Tillerson, who will meet President Uhuru Kenyatta, and hold talks with various government officials, could also be on a clean-up campaign, especially after President Donald Trump’s “s***hole” comment.
Mr Tillerson earlier this week vowed to continue supporting the African Union’s (AU) fight against the Al-Shabaab in Somalia.
"The AU’s mission in Somalia, Amisom, to which the Kenya Defence Forces are apart, recently admitted its timeline of withdrawing from Somalia by 2020 is unrealistic.
The US says it will provide some funding against counter-terrorism measures.
Mr Tillerson’s visit also comes at a time Kenya and neighbours have grappled with the idea of banning second-hand clothes, popularly known as mitumba.