Despite President William Ruto claiming that he enjoys cordial relations with East African presidents, Foreign Affairs analysts have argued otherwise and pinpointed events which contradict the head of state’s assertions.
Ruto, on Sunday, December 17, addressed the reports claiming that Kenya was subject to diplomatic tiffs with her neighbours after none of the heads of state attended the country’s Jamhuri Day celebrations.
He was quick to explain that he did not invite his compatriots as synonymous with previous national holidays.
“Do I attend the national days of other countries? No, does that mean there is a problem? No. The relations between me and Museveni are perfect; the relationship between Kenya and Tanzania is perfect.
President William Ruto together with President Yoweri Museveni at State House Uganda on August 13, 2023.
“Do they normally attend our Jamhuri day? No. How do you ask about the absence of a person who is normally absent? We didn’t invite them. Some of them came because we are East Africans,” Ruto countered the reports.
Uganda-Kenya Oil Row
Recently, Uganda President Yoweri Museveni accused Kenyan middlemen of hiking fuel prices, further directing the state-owned Uganda National Oil Company (UNOC) to take charge of oil importation.
Further, Kenya rejected Uganda’s application filed with the Energy and Petroleum Regulatory Authority (EPRA) to be recognised as an Oil Marketing Company (OMC).
Museveni’s administration, however, warned that it would import the oil via Kenya with or without the licence as it eyes switching its base to Tanzanian ports.
Uganda Jails Kenyans
Uganda in December also jailed 41 Kenyans accused of killing three geologists and two Uganda People’s Defence Force (UPDF) soldiers. It further warned that it would release the convicts if they gave up the names of the perpetrators.
In February this year, then East African Community Cabinet Secretary (CS) Rebecca Miano (now Trade CS) and Interior Principal Secretary Raymond Omollo pleaded with Uganda to release several Kenyans jailed in the country.
Uganda President Yoweri Museveni arrives in Nairobi, Kenya, for the 3rd East African Community (EAC) Heads of State Conclave on the peace and security situation in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) on June 20, 2022
Sudan Ends Conflict With Ruto Administration
Ruto and Sudan President General Abdel-Fattah Al Burhan engaged in a year-long wrangle on the country’s civil war. Burhan had accused Ruto of supporting his rival and paramilitary leader Mohamed Hamdani Daglo ‘Hemedti’.
He also rejected Ruto’s appointment to chair the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD) team tasked with mediating between the warring leaders.
However, Ruto and Burhan ended their differences upon meeting at State House, Nairobi, in November. IGAD later dissolved the Ruto-led team and adopted its comprehensive report, which was also backed by the US.
Samia Suluhu Mocks Kenya’s Economy
Tanzania’s President Samia Suluhu in July claimed that investors were fleeing Kenya for Tanzania owing to Ruto’s hiked taxes, which created an inconducive environment for businesses.
She also later alleged that Kenya was reaching out to her neighbours to borrow dollars to address the shortage of the global currency, a remark Ruto’s administration opposed.
Tanzanian Head of State President Samia Suluhu welcomes President William Rutat State House Tanzania on Monday, October 10, 2022.
Suluhu Trolls Ruto’s Global Financial Policies
In November, she differed with Ruto over his approach to seeking climate financing from foreign powers and instead champion for African countries to generate their own resources.
Suluhu also featured heavily in Ruto’s row with opposition leader Raila Odinga, who led the nationwide anti-government protests. Reports alleged that Ruto declined to meet her after she visited Kenya to mediate between him and Odinga.
Speaking to Kenyans.co.ke, Foreign Affairs and Governance analyst Israel Kodiaga argued that the self-seeking nature of President Ruto’s administration escalated the diplomatic tension within the East African Community.
“Statecraft is both an art and a science matrix. It is not only about capturing power but what you do with that power. The Kenya Kwanza government has missed the art and the science of statecraft,” Kodiaga argued.
He further noted that the current government inherited a country which had good relations with its neighbours and the original three East African Countries (EAC).
“Kenya was like the big brother, Uganda and Tanzania for many years looked up to Kenya and you would notice that if they had problems they would always come to Kenya for peace talks and discussions.”
“The East African countries have relied on Kenya for partnership in key areas like economics, security, trade, education, agriculture and energy,” he explained.
Defence Cabinet Secretary Aden Duale inspecting a guard of honour in DRC on August 6, 2023
DRC Recalls Its Ambassador From Kenya
DRC, in December 2023, recalled its ambassador to Kenya claiming that the latter supported a Congolese opposition figure.
Kenya, however, distanced itself from the opposition leader but pledged to investigate the political-military alliance that brewed the row.
On DRC recalling its Kenyan ambassador, Kodiaga stated that there is more than what meets the eye as Kenya and some East African countries are meddling in Congolese affairs.
He accused some East African countries of financing militia groups to benefit from the mineral-rich country.
“Kenya went into DRC not knowing what to do but to show that they are big players in the regional matters, and this has been the worst undoing of President Ruto. Wherever he goes, whether it’s the AU or European Union, he wants to play in the big boy’s club not knowing he is a new student in form one trying to join the form six debate,” Kodiaga slammed Ruto.
Kodiaga advised the president to slow down on his aggressive diplomatic policies and focus on mending the deteriorating relationship.
“Uganda is Kenya’s number one trading partner, and we don’t want a situation where the EAC countries abandon us. Then we are going to lose economically, especially if Uganda decides to import fuel through Tanzania then, that will kill the SGR; everything along the Trans African Highway and the port of Mombasa will shut down, he observed.