Upon its independence in 1963, Kenya assumed control and management of its Foreign Policy setting the pace for active participation in regional and international affairs. Since then, Kenya’s conduct of diplomacy has progressively evolved driven and guided primarily by the quest to promote and protect its national interests. Like other countries, the Foreign Policy orientation of Kenya has been determined by the realities both at the domestic and external environment.
From the early years, Kenya’s diplomacy has largely been influenced by its history as much as developments within country and beyond. At independence, Kenya undertook several initiatives and decisions that continue to underline the country’s position at the international system. This includes membership in the Organization of African Unity (OAU) and the imperative to uphold the right to self-determination and support to end decolonization in Africa, which established Kenya’s Pan-Africanist credentials. Kenya’s Foreign Policy has since its inception showcased a disposition towards an Afro-Centric orientation that continues to influence the country’s commitment to the East African Community (EAC) integration, the realization of Agenda 2063: The Africa We Want and continental integration as envisaged in the Africa Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA).
In 1972, Kenya achieved one of the milestones of its early diplomacy by securing to host the United Nations Environmental Programme (UNEP) Headquarters in Nairobi. This established Kenya’s special position in the United Nations as the only Headquarters in the Global South and inspired the country’s desire to play a more active role within the international body, and continues to inform the country’s aspirations within the international community.
Various developments at the internal situation have also influenced the evolution of Kenya’s diplomacy. The successes the country has achieved through progress in its democratic process and the strengthening of its governance system that culminated in the Constitution of Kenya (2010), have particularly given Kenya a better standing in the international community and thus provided leverage in enhancing diplomatic relations.
The publication of Kenya’s Foreign Policy in 2014, the first time since its independence, is a major achievement as it provides a reference document on the country’s foreign relations. The Foreign Policy Booklet provides a broad framework on Kenya’s foreign relations and diplomatic engagements within the contemporary global environment. The Policy outlines the evolution of Kenya’s diplomacy since independence and informs on the strategic thrust in pursuit of Kenya’s national interests. Observably, the overall objective of Kenya’s Foreign Policy is derived from a common desire for a peaceful, united and prosperous country as embodied in Kenya’s National Anthem, the Constitution of Kenya 2010, and Vision 2030, the country’s development blueprint.
In the recent past, the country’s involvement with global debate on Sustainable Development have given Kenya leverage in building blocks for an enhanced role and contributions particularly emerging issues such as Climate Change, Oceans and Blue Economy and the quest for the reformation of international organizations to ensure equity and fair representation of all member states. In undertaking this renewed role at the global level, Kenya has established its credentials as a global champion for multilateralism and a proponent of as rule-based multilateral system. Furthermore, Kenya has assumed a lead role in the African Union’s efforts to strengthen relations with the People of African Descent, the 6th Regional Constituency; under the framework of the Organization of African, Caribbean and Pacific States.
Kenya has also continued to expand its diplomatic footprints in all regions to cater for its growing strategic interests across the world. This is aimed at boosting foreign relations at the bilateral level through establishment of diplomatic relations with select countries and to meet the needs for the anticipated active participation in global affairs. The reflections of Kenya’s increasing role and contributions at the global level and the country’s growing diplomatic footprints form the basis for review of the country’s Foreign Policy.