I will always feel at home in Kenya and will be an ambassador for this country

The outgoing British High Commissioner Christian Turner addresses an IGAD workshop on September 14, 2015 in Nairobi. Dr Turner has said he did his best to foster good relations and promote trade between Kenya and the UK. PHOTO | ROBERT NGUGI | NATION MEDIA GROUP

What you need to know:

  • A constant theme of my public remarks has been “partnership”.

  • The UK and Kenya are closely intertwined and we have a long history together. 

  • A more secure and prosperous Kenya means a more secure and prosperous UK.

I leave Kenya this week after nearly four years as British High Commissioner.

It has been my privilege to meet, listen to, and get to know people right across this wonderful country.

I have experienced the best Kenya has to offer: visiting the majestic Maasai Mara, the cradle of mankind in Turkana, climbing Mt Kenya, and swimming with dolphins on the Swahili coast. 

Not to mention being soundly beaten by the best athletes in the world at the Lewa marathon. 

But the highlights of my time in Kenya are about much more than the tourist trail. 

My abiding memories will be of the brilliance of Kenyan youth, the sharp questions I have had in schools, the vibrant civil society and media, the innovation of the digital generation (and their quick Twitter hashtags), the musicians and artists (and singing with them at the Bomas), the sense of humour that we share. 

Throughout I have been overwhelmed by Kenya’s legendary warmth and hospitality.


During my time I have sought to build relationships with the people of Kenya. The job of a diplomat is neither to cheerlead nor criticise.

It is to engage in order to represent their country’s interests. I have tried to do so with energy and enthusiasm. To be active and accessible. 

To meet real people, to communicate clearly and transparently, to listen and ultimately build relationships that bring us closer together.

A constant theme of my public remarks has been “partnership”.

The UK and Kenya are closely intertwined and we have a long history together. 


I have often said that, contrary to conspiracy theories, the UK wants the same thing as the people and government of Kenya: inclusive growth that spreads to all parts of society, more investment to deliver jobs, greater security, and terrorism defeated. 

This is in both our interests: a more secure and prosperous Kenya means a more secure and prosperous UK.

The proof points are familiar: the UK is Kenya’s largest trading partner outside of East Africa, in excess of £1 billion (Sh155 billion) a year. 

We invest over £230 million (over Sh35 billion) in combined aid from DFID a year to help the poorest Kenyans, improve health and education, tackle conflict, and create jobs.

Our military cooperation is worth £58 million (Sh8.9 billion) a year, the lion’s share of that going directly into the Kenyan economy. 

We provide extensive security cooperation to deliver a more stable and secure Kenya.


Most important is the friendship between our peoples. 

More people travel to Kenya every year from Britain than from any other country. 

There are 200,000 people of Kenyan origin living in the UK. When Kenyans want to travel or study abroad, their first choice is Britain.

I see the mutual affection between our peoples and I am proud of how much we do day in, day out for each other.  What unites us is far greater than what divides us.


The historic Mau Mau settlement and memorial is a good example of how we are at our best when we work together. 

As partners and allies in today’s world, we must recognise our shared history, learn the lessons it teaches us, and continue to move forward together in a spirit of reconciliation and mutual respect. 

As I look ahead, my advice for my successor is to believe in Kenya. I remain very confident in Kenya’s future as well as in the strength of our bilateral relationship. 

Chapter Six of the 2010 Constitution is a benchmark for good governance, the rule of law, and a blueprint for leadership with integrity.

I cannot put it better than President Kenyatta at this year’s Madaraka Day celebration. 

He said: “Public office is a trust for the benefit of the wananchi. This trust entails prudent stewardship based on professionalism, integrity, and diligence.”

That is why we support him in the fight against corruption, to create jobs for youth and ensure a community-centred response to tackling radicalisation. 


As former president Mwai Kibaki recently remarked, we will have differences of view, but trust, taking responsibility, and openness will enhance, rather than undermine, the achievement of our goals. 

In Kenya, politics is the national sport and everyone has an opinion about what everybody else should be doing. 

But let me admit there is one thing I do not like. It is when I hear people talk down Kenya or say that problems are insurmountable.

It is wrong for a foreign diplomat to try to tell Kenyans what the answers are — we must work with, not talk at. The answers will come from within Kenya, not from outsiders.

I will always feel at home in Kenya. It is where I have watched my children grow up. I will miss it and treasure many wonderful friends and memories. 

But as I leave, something important will happen: I will stop being an ambassador to Kenya and become an ambassador for Kenya wherever I am in the world. Asanteni sana na nitarudi tena.

Dr Turner is the outgoing British High Commissioner to Kenya.


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