IN SUMMARY
At least six countries, including Zambia, Japan, Italy,
France, Germany and Austria have been left in a
diplomatic limbo in Kenya after the Foreign Affairs
ministry suspended the accreditation of their envoys
indefinitely, citing Mr Kenyatta’s busy diary.
Analysts warned that delay in accrediting foreign
envoys could send wrong signals to foreign capitals
that Kenya is not open for business — a position that
could cost the country billions of shillings in missed
trade and investment opportunities.
Envoys are crucial in the negotiation of trade treaties,
bilateral financing deals and other areas of mutual
interest and are the ones who sign bilateral
assistance agreements.
President Uhuru Kenyatta’s failure to officially receive
newly appointed foreign envoys is causing anxiety in
diplomatic circles, putting at risk billions of shillings
in trade and investment from some of Kenya’s most
valuable partners.
At least six countries, including Zambia, Japan, Italy,
France, Germany and Austria have been left in a
diplomatic limbo in Kenya after the Foreign Affairs
ministry suspended the accreditation of their envoys
indefinitely, citing Mr Kenyatta’s busy diary.
The ministry has since advised new envoys posted to
Kenya to delay their arrival until they are told of the
President’s availability.
Though Mr Kenyatta’s men have stuck to the busy
diary narrative, the delay in accrediting the envoys is
being seen as communicating a message to the
affected countries.
“Whereas there is nothing common among the
countries in the list, delay in accreditation has
traditionally been used as soft language of rejection
or a way of expressing that the matter is not a
priority,” said Macharia Munene, a professor of
History and International Relations at the United
States International University-Africa in Nairobi.
Top Foreign Affairs ministry officials did not respond
to queries on the matter but analysts warned that
delay in accrediting foreign envoys could send wrong
signals to foreign capitals that Kenya is not open for
business — a position that could cost the country
billions of shillings in missed trade and investment
opportunities.
“We cannot accept a situation where ambassadors
are kept waiting without explanation. We have
summoned the Cabinet secretary to appear before us
next week and explain what is happening,” said Bare
Shill, the vice-chair of the National Assembly’s
departmental committee on Defence and Foreign
Relations.
“The President must create time to receive
credentials from ambassadors.”
Envoys are crucial in the negotiation of trade treaties,
bilateral financing deals and other areas of mutual
interest and are the ones who sign bilateral
assistance agreements.
Ochieng Adala, a retired career diplomat, said
accreditation makes one an ‘ambassadeur
extraordinaire et plénipotentiaire’ meaning she or he
is the head of mission with full powers to engage the
State on all matters.
“Without accreditation, an ambassador cannot meet
the President in a formal capacity, cannot host his
country’s national ceremonies such as Independence
Day and is not empowered to sign and negotiate any
bilateral assistance deals,” said Mr Adala in an
interview.
The list of diplomats who are awaiting accreditation
to assume office includes Tatsushi Terada of Japan
and Rémi Maréchaux of France.
The gravity of the diplomatic impasse is underlined
by the fact that three of the countries — Japan,
France and Germany — are some of Kenya’s leading
creditors, accounting for almost a fifth or 18.5 per
cent of total external sources of financing.
Kenya’s overall public debt has more than doubled in
the past five years to Sh1.8 trillion by June this year,
44 per cent of which is external debt.
Japan is ranked Nairobi’s top source of funding in the
bilateral category, having loaned East Africa’s largest
economy a total of Sh85.5 billion ($1.009 billion) by
June this year.
It trails the World Bank, which takes the lion’s share
of Kenya’s debt owed to creditors outside the
country.
ALSO READ: China’s lending to Kenya hits $750m
Tokyo disburses most of the funds through the Japan
International Cooperation Agency (JICA). The
financing is mostly targeted at infrastructure
projects, mostly in energy and roads sectors.
France had advanced Kenya a total of Sh46.7 billion
($551.1 million) by the end June. Most of the money
has gone into revamping the electricity grid and
building roads.
Germany, which had offered Kenya long-term credit
to the tune of Sh24.6 billion ($291.1 million) by June,
follows closely behind. Ambassadors act as chiefs of
mission in host countries, issuing and receiving
official communication on behalf of their
governments and offering traders seeking to develop
new markets a starting point.
Heads of State for host countries have to formally
receive their credentials before they acquire such
status —complete with diplomatic immunity.
Prof Munene says the absence of ambassadors
means the affected countries cannot be fully
represented at the government-to-government
engagements or international meetings taking place
in Kenya.
Of the countries affected by delay in accreditation,
Zambia enjoys cordial relations with Kenya as
members of the Common Market for East and
Southern Africa (Comesa) trading bloc.
It is the only African country that has an enforceable
double taxation agreement with Kenya and has
become a key market for Kenya’s detergents, cooking
fats and long life milk.
So far, Zambia has maintained a positive trade
balance with Kenya, taking in Sh6.6 billion of Kenyan
exports last year compared to Sh2.9 billion worth of
imports.
Politically, it has emerged as one of the allies in the
coalition of leaders cobbled by the African Union (AU)
to push for deferral of President Kenyatta’s ICC cases.
READ: State backs AU resolutions on Hague trials
Political pundits say the country’s political
administration may have issues with European
countries but not necessarily France, Germany and
Italy which have so far avoided the ICC debate
publicly.
Local exporters collectively see Japan, France and
Germany as emerging markets for Kenya’s
agricultural commodities such as horticulture, coffee
and tea deepening their frustration.
“Unlike the traditional markets that our flowers have
dominated mainly through the Dutch Auctions, direct
sales that allow buyers to trace the naturally grown
flowers to Kenya is slowly taking root in these
emerging markets,” the Kenya Flower Council CEO
Jane Ngige said in an earlier interview.
Exporters, however, say the expansion of external
markets — especially for direct sales — starts with a
fully functioning diplomatic mission.

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