Import of Ruto’s whirlwind trips abroad
Barely two and a half months in office, President William Ruto seems to have activated an aggressive foreign policy campaign that has seen him make at least six international trips, amid fears he could outdo his predecessors in globetrotting.
Quite tellingly, President Ruto’s first trip was to the United Kingdom, immediately followed by a sojourn to the United States, bringing the total trips to eight — unlike his predecessor Uhuru Kenyatta whose maiden tours were to Russia and then China.
Curiously, the President is yet to visit either China or Russia or countries allied to them — two nations that were Kenya’s major development partners during Uhuru’s administration.
Observers say President Ruto could be determined to boost Kenya’s foreign policy and enhance trade, particularly with Western countries that Uhuru appeared to have had a “cold” relationship with.
“I think he is largely driven by an urge to mobilise resources in the form of grants to revamp the country’s poor economy. But we can only judge him after a year if the economy does not improve and we don’t see benefits from the trips. At that time, we can confidently say he is spending taxpayers' money on globetrotting,” says Joseph Gitile Naituli of Multimedia University.
Prof Naituli, a political analyst, also observes that Ruto has been trying to revive dwindling ties between Kenya and Western countries after his predecessor concentrated on strengthening ties with the East.
Besides the trips, Ruto has also held several bilateral talks with Rishi Sunak (United Kingdom’s PM), inking deals worth US dollars five billion investments in Kenya; and with International Monetary Fund (IMF) managing director Kristalina Georgieva.
Others are German Chancellor Olaf Scholz, Slovakian President Zuzana Caputová and South African and Rwandan presidents Cyril Ramaphosa and Paul Kagame, as well as African Development Bank President Akinwumi Adesina and several multi-lateral organisations.
During the 77th United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) session, President Ruto met US President Joe Biden on the sidelines of the caucus. They agreed to expand strategic pacts between the two countries.
Tackling key issues
Earlier the same day, Ruto had a sitting with the US Secretary of State, Anthony Blinken. Their talks focused on tackling food security, peace and security.
In New York, he also met UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres.
Last Sunday, Ruto left the country for a one-day State visit to the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), where he held talks with President Felix Tshisekedi, touching on peace in the East Africa region.
Kenya is playing a crucial role as a member of the East African Community, supporting the ‘Nairobi Peace Process’ that involves talks between the DRC government and armed groups in the eastern part of the country, to restore peace and security.
Former President Uhuru Kenyatta is leading the peace process.
From DRC, President Ruto embarked on a three-day official visit to South Korea where, after holding bilateral talks with his host, President Yoon Suk-Yeol, he secured Sh120 billion (US dollars 1 billion) pacts to support local manufacturing in health, a smart city and technical and vocational education and training (TVET) institutions.
Goodies that Ruto secured during his South Korea sojourn include a Sh1.3 billion (US dollars 11m) grant; support for Sagana Industrial Park, Dongo Kundu and Naivasha Special Economic Zones; review of agricultural products from Kenya and enhanced investment in Konza Technopolis.
The President and his team also lobbied for the election of the Principal Secretary of Shipping and Maritime, Nancy Karigithu, as the secretary general of the International Maritime Organisation (IMO).
Ruto’s first foreign trip was to the UK where he attended Queen Elizabeth’s funeral at Westminster before flying to the US for the UN General Assembly meeting.
Soon after returning from the UNGA meeting in New York, Ruto made a whirlwind tour of East Africa, starting with Uganda for bilateral talks with President Yoweri Museveni. Many trade deals were struck.
From Kampala, Ruto landed in Tanzania for a meeting with President Samia Suluhu Hassan, where the two countries agreed to jointly construct a 600km gas pipeline linking Dar es Salaam, Nairobi and Mombasa.
He was also in Ethiopia to witness Safaricom’s official entry there, after key talks with his host, Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed.