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The British government will keep close diplomatic ties with Kenya despite the recent election of Uhuru Kenyatta as the country’s fourth president, its minister in charge of Foreign and Commonwealth Office has said.
Baroness Warsi told a committee of the House of Lords on Wednesday that the United Kingdom would maintain normal diplomatic relations with East Africa’s largest economy.
This reverses the country’s pre-election position that it would have only ‘essential contact’ with Mr Kenyatta, who is facing crimes against humanity at the ICC, if elected.
“We believe that the suspects must be considered innocent until proven guilty before that court,” the minister said. ‘‘In the meantime, we do not think that the issue should dominate our bilateral relationship. Our engagement will reflect this and we will judge our approach according to the issue.”
Baroness Warsi said the UK had taken a pragmatic approach to the Kenyan situation, citing close business, humanitarian and security ties but maintained her country’s unwavering support for the International Criminal Court (ICC).
“We support the court as the cornerstone of international justice and as my right honourable friend the Foreign Secretary said in July last year, we have learnt from history that you cannot have lasting peace without justice, accountability and reconciliation.”
The minister was responding to questions from members of the House of Lords who wanted to know the British government’s official position on Kenya following the election of Mr Kenyatta as president and William Ruto, also an ICC indictee, as his deputy.
Lord Chidgey, a peer in the House of Lords, had wanted to know what representations Her Majesty’s Government was making to Kenya concerning the outcome of the recent presidential election.
Lord Chidgey had put up a strong case for the UK’s continued cooperation with the Kenyan government, citing deep historical and commercial ties that benefitted both countries.
“There is a special historic and cultural relationship, as well as commercial and strategic linkages that are vital to both countries,” he said.
British investments in Kenya are currently estimated to be worth more than £4 billion (Sh510 billion) and half of the top 10 taxpaying companies in Kenya are British.
Lord Chidgey said the UK is also the largest source of foreign tourists for Kenya and the second-largest bilateral donor that contributes more than £100 million (Sh13 billion) to the East African nation’s economy every year.
Trade between Britain and Kenya stood at more than £1 billion (Sh130 billion) last year following a 38 per cent rise in British exports to Kenya between 2010 and 2011.