Kenya’s new Public Diplomacy Ministry is a mixed bag
By LES BAILEA and MIRI KALUMBOIKenya’s new public diplomacy ministry is a mix of public diplomacy and private diplomacy.
But it is not clear how it will be funded.
The ministry, which is led by Nairobi-based businessman Misha Kebede, has a $1 billion budget but is yet to put a dent in Kenya’s crippling corruption crisis, which has killed at least 100 people and triggered a wave of protests across the country.
Kebede says he is determined to change the way Kenya conducts foreign affairs.
“This is my passion.
I am a human being, and we are all human beings,” Kebedes said in an interview.
“I believe in making the country the best place to be.”
The ministry is part of a broader effort by Kenya to rebuild its foreign policy and national security credentials.
In the aftermath of the January 2014 coup that toppled long-time leader Raila Odinga, the government has spent billions of dollars in rebuilding its institutions, and it is considering a large-scale transfer of assets to private sector players.
It is now trying to develop a strategy to counter terrorism and foreign-backed insurgencies, and Kebeds vision for a new kind of diplomacy is a big part of that.
There is no doubt that Kebesi’s vision is aimed at attracting foreign investors, as well as Western investors who are wary of Kenya’s current political situation.
Kenya is one of the world’s poorest countries, with an economy of $8.5 billion and a population of about 700,000.
Its foreign policy is one-sided, with Kebedese backing for the Ethiopian government in its civil war, and there is little support for the African Union’s anti-corruption mission, which was formed after Odingan’s ouster.
While it has the most ambitious public diplomacy strategy in Africa, its military has been in decline since a 2015 coup.
And its economy is in free fall.
Despite a $200 billion aid package that was signed by Kenya in 2015, it is one the world at large is reluctant to send, with Western investors wary of the country’s security.
At the same time, Kenya has a reputation for corruption, and the country is plagued by corruption scandals.
Critics of the ministry say it is a one-dimensional approach, while others see it as a positive development that is a step in the right direction.
Some Westerners are now seeking to set up a Kenya-based nonprofit organization, to address Kenya’s growing foreign-policy challenges.
More than 1,000 Kenyan citizens are studying at the London School of Economics, and they are now getting the chance to work in the field of foreign policy.
For Misha, the foreign policy agenda is just one aspect of his ambitious career.
He hopes to be the first black Kenyan to run for president in 2019.
If Kenya can achieve the sort of political reform it has in recent years, it will achieve a much better position in the world than it did at the beginning of its post-dictatorship rule, Misha said.
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