Wednesday, July 30, 2014

KENYANS EXPECT UHURU'S VISIT TO AMERICA TO RESTORE FRAYED RELATIONS

In the next few days, President Uhuru Kenyatta will travel to the United States to join President Barack Obama and other Heads of State for a crucial meeting dubbed the Africa Summit.

Apart from the issues that will be discussed, including economic development, security and conflicts in the African continent, the Kenyan leader will also, hopefully, have a chance to meet one-on-one with the leader of the most powerful nation on earth to exchange views on sensitive matters that appear to hinder the smooth growth of relations between the two countries.

First, there is the issue of the country's vulnerability as a target for terrorist attacks. Kenyans may have stopped counting, but more than one-hundred fifty people have been killed through terror attacks perpetrated by the Al Queda-linked Somali terror group Al Shabaab. This group continues to issue threats of more attacks against our people.

Kenya and the United States have been working closely on  intelligence matters in recent years to stem the tide of international criminal activity including terrorism, money laundering and drug trafficking. These efforts have yielded some results, but the results have not been enough to calm the nerves of terror-scared Kenyans.

Linked together with terrorism has been the question of travel advisories that have slowed down the tourism industry and inflicted untold injuries to the country's economy. America, more than any other country, has been active in issuing advisories to its citizens to avoid Kenya. My feeling is that this whole issue must be put on the table for discussion so that a more benign solution can be found to take the place of debilitating travel warnings.

Recently, Washington made it known it was in the process of withdrawing its Peace Corps personnel and reducing staff in some of its crucial developmental agencies, again because of increased insecurity. Unfortunately, when America coughs the rest of Europe catches a cold. Some European countries appear geared to follow America's path, a situation which could lead to immense economic loss and human suffering.

While in the American capital, Kenyans expect Uhuru to extend an invitation to President Obama to visit Kenya before the end of his second tour in office. Kenyans were disappointed when a few years ago, the American leader skipped Nairobi during his visits to Africa. It will be a big public relations and psychological boost if Obama was to tour his motherland while in office. The visit will instill renewed confidence and signal a complete recovery of relations which have suffered since Uhuru took over government in 2003.

Kenya needs America more than America needs Kenya. We need American investments in all fields including in the emerging oil industry; we need its continued assistance in funding health programmes and youth empowerment schemes; and we need America's shield in security and defence. Let Kenya make no mistake. While we need China for loans to upgrade our infrastructure, we need America more to fuel real growth and to power our human capacity.

And that is my say.