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Kenya: Strengthening regional responsibility Kenya

23.02.2015 - Article

On a visit to Nairobi, Foreign Minister Steinmeier met members of the government and opposition and spoke in favour of strengthening economic and cultural relations between Germany and Kenya.

The German and Kenyan Foreign Ministers in Nairobi with Germany’s Ambassador Andreas Peschke (right) and Principal Secretary Karanja Kibicho (left)
The German and Kenyan Foreign Ministers in Nairobi with Germany’s Ambassador Andreas Peschke (right) and Principal Secretary Karanja Kibicho (left)© Photothek/Grabowsky

Foreign Minister Steinmeier has concluded his Africa trip with a visit to Kenya. He was met in Nairobi by his Kenyan counterpart, Cabinet Secretary Amina Mohamed, and also met President Uhuru Kenyatta. Their talks focused on stronger regional cooperation in East Africa and the expansion of bilateral relations. Steinmeier and Mohamed also met up with a number of German and Kenyan businesspeople to discuss intensifying trade relations between the two countries. Another of Steinmeier’s meetings saw him talk to representatives of the political opposition in order to gain an impression of the domestic political situation in Kenya. At the end of his visit, the German Foreign Minister presented the plans for the Berlin Humboldt-Forum, which will in part be dedicated to promoting cultural exchange with Africa.

It was the last stop on his trip to Africa: on arriving from Rwanda, Foreign Minister Steinmeier was met right at the airport by his Kenyan opposite number, Cabinet Secretary Amina Mohamed. The two had met before, when Mohamed came to Berlin just over a year ago to speak to Germany’s Foreign Minister about bilateral relations. Even back then, Steinmeier described Kenya as a good illustration of the fact that Africa was changing quicker than European perceptions of the continent.

With Kenya’s President Kenyatta
With Kenya’s President Kenyatta© Photothek/Grabowsky

Supporting regional cooperation

Steinmeier also met President Uhuru Kenyatta for political talks. Their conversation focused on the strengthening of regional cooperation in East Africa. Afterwards, Steinmeier also had the chance to introduce the high-level business delegation which had accompanied him on his trip around Africa.

Steinmeier’s visit furthermore included a meeting with representatives of the opposition – former Vice-President Kalonzo Musyoka among them – to talk about the domestic political situation in Kenya.

Press conference in Nairobi
Press conference in Nairobi© Photothek/Grabowsky

Kenya’s role in helping intensify cooperation in the region was also a focus of talks with Cabinet Secretary Mohamed. At their joint press conference, Steinmeier called Kenya an anchor of stability, saying it was “one of the countries which are playing a key role in driving the process of regional cooperation in East Africa”. Germany, he went on, would be glad to do all it could to support that process.

Support for Somalia

The Foreign Minister also expressed his respect for Kenya’s actions in taking in over 500,000 refugees from Somalia as well as supporting the political process in that country. Germany too, he said, was helping train Somali security forces and planning to advise Somalia on the future construction of its political system, bringing its own experience of federalism to bear in the process of decentralisation.

Steinmeier and Mohamed in conversation with German and Kenyan businesspeople
Steinmeier and Mohamed in conversation with German and Kenyan businesspeople© Photothek/Grabowsky

Dynamic economic relations

But bilateral relations between Germany and Kenya, already very close, were also to be intensified, Steinmeier went on. This, he said, was why he had not come alone but brought a high-level delegation representing business and cultural affairs.

Business ties were already being established first thing in the morning, as Steinmeier and Mohamed engaged in extensive dialogue with German and Kenyan businesspeople. There are already a large number of German businesses with a presence in Kenya, and both countries are interested in expanding the existing economic relations.

Cultural relations

Steinmeier explaining the idea of the Berlin Humboldt-Forum in Nairobi
Steinmeier explaining the idea of the Berlin Humboldt-Forum in Nairobi© Photothek/Grabowsky

Cultural cooperation between Germany and Kenya was also high on the agenda for Steinmeier’s visit. He and his counterpart went to Nairobi National Museum together, where they were welcomed by Hassan Wario, Cabinet Secretary for Sports, Culture and the Arts, Jacob Kaimenyi, Cabinet Secretary for Education, and Ahmed Yassin, the Director General of the museum. In a panel discussion, Steinmeier and Andreas Görgen, Director-General for Cultural Relations and Education Policy at the Federal Foreign Office, explained the plans for the Humboldt-Forum, which is to open in the new incarnation of the Berlin City Palace next year. Several museums, a library, parts of Humboldt University and an event centre are to combine to form a meeting place for people from all cultures and age groups.

In his speech, Foreign Minister Steinmeier described the Humboldt-Forum as a “market place for ideas, an agora to encourage debate right across the boundaries of academic disciplines, states and cultures”. He was sure, he said, “that the Humboldt-Forum can offer a large and welcoming roof under which ideas from all around the world can gather”. Steinmeier continued:

Only open dialogue between different societies – among our citizens, our academics, young musicians, architects, authors – will enable us to generate long-term trust and understanding that transcend all borders.

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