Kenya: International Bully or Brother?

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Published On:

January 19, 2015


Photo Credit: Wikimeda Commons

Photo Credit: Wikimeda Commons

We all knew that one child in the neighborhood: the one that no one liked to play with because he (or she) was always starting trouble or engaged in elaborate “silent treatment” vendettas against the other children.

Any time you heard their name, possibly well into their adulthood, you always knew drama would follow, or at the very least, juicy gossip. Well, unfortunately for us, in some spheres Kenya is exactly that child.

When it comes to international relations, even within the scope of our beautiful continent alone, it seems every time you turn, Kenya is involved in disputes of varying gravity.

This is more so true of our past interactions with our closest neighbors. Take Uganda for instance.

Resisting the temptation to bring up Migingo – the troubled island that both Kenya and Uganda have laid claim to in the past, sparking fears of a military struggle- a more recent dust up will serve as our example.

In October 2012, Kenya issued a ban on sugar imports from Uganda, sparking a dispute that would drag through to 2014. Granted, this feud originated from 2011 claims that Ugandan traders were repackaging substandard Comesa sugar for resale.

Though the ban was repealed in favor of stringent import standards, trade relations between Kenya and Uganda have been strained, with Uganda threatening to ban certain Kenyan exports to the area in retribution.

Our Tanzanian neighbors have not fared much better when it comes to maintaining friendly relations with Kenya.

Late last year, shortly before Christmas, Kenya passed a ban barring vehicles with Tanzanian registration from picking up or dropping travelers from the Jomo Kenyatta International airport.

This ban, which had no clear official announcement seemed to the casual observer to be a random act of Kenyan harassment.

Upon further investigation, unofficial sources have alleged that this ban was done to reciprocate a similar ban in Tanzania, denying Kenyan registered vehicles entry into Tanzanian national parks.

As at late last year, the Tanzanian tourism minister, while being careful to state that no official notification of the ban had been made, acknowledged complaints from Tanzanians over the matter and promised to make the necessary trip to Kenya to seek clarification and resolution.

Photo credit: Lumaxart/Wikimedia Commons

Photo credit: Lumaxart/Wikimedia Commons

Of course, no one person can be entirely good and no one can country can be entirely bad even in the context of international relations.

Kenya kicked off 2015 with a show of bravery and kindness from a select group of her doctors, nurses and other public health officials who volunteered to risk their lives and join in the fight against Ebola in West Africa.

Even as the world’s attention turned from the ongoing hemorrhagic epidemic to the next big story, 170 extraordinary men and women from the Kenyan medical sector took on a responsibility most of us would cross lakes and climb mountains to avoid.

We salute these exemplary few and send them forward with our prayers for their health, security and safe return.

While Kenya has had her rough patches with our immediate neighbors, when it comes to shows of African solidarity and assistance in times of need, Kenya has also stepped up and shouldered the needed responsibility.

Even as we slowly find out what 2015 has in store for us, we go forward with the knowledge that in spite of what we have inflicted on each other as Kenyans, on the basis of religion, ethnicity or any other divisions, like our country, we must show each other brotherly love and rise to the occasion when one of our own is in need.

Do have an agreeable week, won’t you?


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