I am delighted to be making my third visit to Kenya as the UK’s Minister for Africa.
The relationship between the UK and Kenya continues on a dynamic and mutually beneficial path across a wide range of interests. The objective of my visit is to underline the continuing and growing significance of the UK-Kenya partnership.
For example our trade relationship is booming, which is why I will make my first visit to Mombasa as Minister, to learn for myself more about developments and opportunities in key Kenyan industries.
Our trade relationship is very much a two-way street. In fact Kenya exports more to the UK than the UK does to Kenya. In 2011 goods imported from Kenya to the UK were worth around £378million (KSh50billion), while UK exports to Kenya grew to around £356million (KSh47billion).
Our people to people relationships are also key to the UK-Kenya partnership. There are perhaps 200,000 Kenyans living, working or studying in the UK.
Many people in Kenya have relatives or friends living in the UK. And likewise, roughly 20,000 British people live in Kenya, and almost ten times that number visit every year as tourists. At the London 2012 Olympics later this year Kenya’s incredible athletes will have plenty of hometown supporters, and they will also be hosted ahead of the Games by part of the Kenyan diaspora in Bristol.
During my visit I will exchange views on a number of security issues of mutual interest. These include a range of transnational threats such as drug smuggling, cross-border crime, terrorism and piracy. In all of these areas and more we have developed strong personal and institutional relationships, as we have in other fora such as the Commonwealth. We understand each other well.
The defence relationship is more intensive than it has been for many years. Our work on regional problems like Somalia is far closer than it was a few years ago. The UK recently sponsored UN Resolution 2036 in New York, giving AMISOM extra troops, including from Kenya, to enable it to effectively capitalise on the gains already made and increase the military pressure on al Shabaab.
Bringing Kenyan troops into the internationally agreed mandate for defending the Somali people will further formalise their contribution to fighting Al Shabaab. It will also help promote coordination across the activities of all peacekeeping forces in Somalia, including on civilian protection.
I will discuss the operation in Somalia while in Kenya. The international community including the UK, and Somalia’s neighbours like Kenya, must maintain the momentum generated by last month’s London Conference on Somalia.
That should include humanitarian aid and development in areas that are now becoming stable after years of chaos. We will play our part in this – the UK’s development budget for Somalia in the coming year will be £63million (KSh 8.2billion).
And at a time when most developed countries are reducing their development assistance, DFID’s programme in Kenya is set not only to increase but potentially to double over the next few years.
In 2012/13 we expect to spend £110million (KSh14.4billion) on development programmes in Kenya, with a range of programmes in support of Kenya’s Vision 2030.
Part of our development programme includes a focus on governance issues. The UK is supporting a number of institutional reforms, such as the recent establishment of the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC).
As UK officials have said many times, we have no interest in any particular outcome in the General Election and we are not backing any particular candidates or parties. We support transparent, credible, peaceful elections which produce results that the people of Kenya, of whatever political persuasion, accept as the legitimate expression of the will of the people. We are and will remain non partisan.
I know there has been much speculation about the purpose of my visit. As I have made clear above, it is because of the many shared interests between the UK and Kenya, and other regional interests. The visit has been planned for several weeks.
It was never in response to the alleged documents presented in Parliament. For the record, the documents are not genuine and I have no intention of giving them any credence by commenting further.
I am concerned that, among other preposterous allegations, His Excellency the President and the Right Honourable Prime Minister were dragged into this as part of an attempt to cause division and instability, just when Kenya needs a stable and peaceful environment to conduct fair elections and implement the Constitution. The heightened tensions from the political rhetoric on all sides is of concern, and we support those who are calling for restraint.
My visit is another in a regular succession of Ministerial and other senior visits to Kenya over the last few years. My colleagues and I have made more visits of this sort to Kenya than to other countries in Africa.
Prime Minister David Cameron’s meeting with President Kibaki in London last month further underscored the importance we attach to this relationship. Kenya is and will remain a significant partner for the UK.
Bellingham is the UK’s Minister for Africa.