Kibaki Choices That Strained His Relationship With Britain

Kenya's third President Mwai Kibaki at a public event
Kenya's third President Mwai Kibaki at a public event

President Uhuru Kenyatta is scheduled to visit the United Kingdom on Tuesday, July 27 as an official state guest. 

The head of state has maintained a cordial relationship with the nation that handed over power to his father, Mzee Jomo Kenyatta close to six decades ago.

However, Uhuru's warm relationship with Britain was not the case in his predecessor President Mwai Kibaki's reign between 2003 and 2013.

From the time he was sworn in as president in January 2003, the relationship between the two nations remained strained and barely operational. In fact, Kibaki did not make a single state visit to the UK in the ten years he served as President. 

Former President Mwai Kibaki greets his successor Uhuru Kenyatta.
Former President Mwai Kibaki greets his successor Uhuru Kenyatta.

Despite being educated in the British capital of London, Kibaki was among the first African leaders to forge trade relations with the East. Kibaki ditched Britain for China where he sought investment for various development projects.

He allocated Japanese and Chinese companies several multibillion development tenders - much to the chagrin of the West which was used to having its way in Kenya. 

Among these projects was the Thika Super Highway, which was built at Ksh30 billion and the Standard Gauge Railway(SGR).

Kibaki ordered the cancellation of a ten-year multibillion currency tender awarded to British company De La Rue just 10 days after being sworn in as president. De La Rue had been awarded the tender to print the Kenyan currency.

The government opted to go for an open tender as opposed to the tender that had initially been awarded to the printing company.

The tender was later won by De La Rue but only after it agreed to cede a significant part of its shareholding to Kenyans - a deal that is still being contested in the Kenyan courts to date. 

In addition, the British government frowned upon the decision by Kibaki's government to build a monument for Dedan Kimathi, a man the former colonial masters termed a terrorist. 

The erection of the monument came after the cabinet legalized the Mau Mau Movement.

The UK military has for the longest time had trained at Kifaru Barracks, a hub within Kenya Air Base in Nairobi and Laikipia Air Base in Nanyuki. However, during Kibaki's regime, Britain struggled to renew the military training memorandum of understanding.

In addition, the use of vehicles by British manufacturer Land Rover by administrators was slowly phased out during the ex-president's tenure.

Since President Kenyatta took over in 2013, the relationship between Kenya and the UK has immensely improved. The two countries have partnered in several educational and infrastructural projects.

In 2015, Britain was able to obtain an extension of a controversial contract that allows its soldiers to train in Laikipia. 

A section of Thika road.
A section of Thika road.
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