Letters

Renewed optimism for Kenya-SA relations

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President Uhuru Kenyatta (left) with his South African counterpart Cyril Ramaphosa. PHOTO | PSCU

Summary

  • This visitation should mark a discernible shift in the bilateral relations between Kenya and South Africa.
  • South Africa has naturally gravitated the bolstering of its relations with States that lent support to members of the African National Congress (ANC) during the apartheid regime.
  • Considering the tense relations the two States have had in the past, South Africa should use this as a chance to ease what is seen to be its isolationist foreign policy.

President Uhuru Kenyatta is in South Africa for a three-day State visit from November 23.

This visitation should mark a discernible shift in the bilateral relations between Kenya and South Africa. It should be noted that the two countries have not had the best of relations in the past and in this sense, there should be hope for renewed optimism of their bilateral ties.

South Africa has naturally gravitated the bolstering of its relations with States that lent support to members of the African National Congress (ANC) during the apartheid regime.

Cold war

This explains why it has maintained close ties with States such as Tanzania that offered support to the ANC forces. Kenya, on the other hand, entrenched in its policy of non-alignment during the cold war period that was synonymous with the apartheid years was lacklustre in terms of offering support to the ANC or taking a strong stance towards ostracising apartheid.

The beer wars between Kenya and South Africa in 1998 as a result of the South African Breweries intending to take on Kenya Breweries’ Tusker, and the Late Nelson Mandela’s refusal to alight from a plane at the Jomo Kenyatta International Airport to meet a junior official of the government receiving him on transition made the rivalry worse.

As such, it should be observed that President Kenyatta’s visitation exemplifies what has been argued to be an assertive and pragmatic foreign policy during his tenure as President. The two States, in their capacities as regional hegemons, should be expected to increase the volumes of bilateral trade occasioned by President Kenyatta’s visit.

Considering the tense relations the two States have had in the past, South Africa should use this as a chance to easing what is seen to be its isolationist foreign policy, and that would contribute to a fostering of regional co-operation within East, and Southern Africa.