Diplomacy is truly a fine art.
It has variously been described amusingly as the art of letting someone else have your way, and as the art of telling someone to go to hell in such a way that they ask for directions.
On a more serious note, diplomacy is vital for the lifeblood of any nation. It concerns relations with other nations, trade agreements, import and export issues, security ties and negotiations on local and global disputes.
As a prominent country in Africa, the Republic of Kenya has always had to maintain walking a tightrope between competing international powers and those that seek global influence.
During the Cold War, many African nations were forced to take a side, and these led to bloody battles within and between nations, the remnants of which we still see and hear today.
Since the fall of the Iron Curtain in 1991, the United States of America, was considered the only superpower, and while that probably still rings true today, there are a lot of rising nations willing to compete at the highest levels.
The People’s Republic of China is one such nation, and Kenya secured relations with its Asian partner two days after independence, and China was just the fourth nation to open its embassy in Nairobi.
The Russian Federation, while by no means able to replicate the power of the Soviet Union, is certainly a major player on the global scene, as is the Republic of India, and many others.
It is absolutely important that Kenya improves and builds on relations with all these and other rising global players, while maintaining its strong and robust relations with the US, and so far this balance has been expertly maintained.
President Uhuru Kenyatta has become known internationally as one of the most skilled statesmen around.
There is barely a high-ranking international leader who has not been in and out of Nairobi in the last few years, or with whom President Kenyatta has visited. Kenya is now a regular participant at global events like the G7 and this year it could be voted onto the United Nations Security Council for 2021.
The amount of trade, security, hi-tech, health and education deals President Kenyatta has signed in recent years have provided massive boosts to our economy and infrastructure.
However, the recent animus, threats and attacks, traded between the US and the Islamic Republic of Iran is another great test for our leadership.
While Iran is by no means a superpower, it has growing influence, especially in Africa.
After The Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), or Iran nuclear deal as it has become known, was signed in 2015, Iran decided to upgrade its “Africa Strategy” and increase bilateral trade and economic ties. And Kenya was one of its recipients.
To add to the complexity, Saudi Arabia, also a growing player in Africa, is Iran’s major opponent in their region.
It will take all of President Kenyatta’s diplomatic acumen to deal with this ever-growing sensitive situation. The Middle East is not the other end of the world and is just the other side of the Red Sea for many of our direct neighbours.
Especially, in a year when Kenya hopes to be elected to the UN Security Council, he will have to tread carefully.
Nonetheless, Kenyans can be confident that President Kenyatta has already devised a strategic plan about how to navigate turbulent diplomatic waters. He has done this many times before, not least in his meetings with US President Donald Trump.
Under Uhuru’s leadership, Kenya is one of the few nations that maintain extremely close relations with China and is still feted in the White House. There are few who could have navigated the frequently tense relations with neighbours Tanzania, Ethiopia and Somalia, and come out on top.
His trademark grin never seems to slip even in times of pressure. His charm offensive with such disparate leaders and nations has placed him at the top table of global diplomacy.
There, arguably, has not been another statesman like him in Kenya’s history, and he is certainly leagues above any other current Kenyan politician.
That is why we should have firm confidence that even as the world appears to be more tumultuous with very dangerous brinksmanship on our doorstep, we should know that we have a captain who will steady our ship regardless of what is going on around us.
President Kenyatta has mastered the art of letting someone else have his way, and regardless of the challenges that come our way, Kenya will once again come out ahead.
Mr Mugolla comments on topical socio-political issues. [email protected]