China is said to be closely following Kenya’s election, considering that its bilateral ties with the country are at stake.
One of the issues that saw Beijing shift its focus to the August 9 polls is the controversial statement made by Deputy President William Ruto who threatened to deport Chinese nationals in retail trade.
Despite refraining from stating its position on the matter, reports indicate that the sentiments caused jitters in Beijing.
“A senior aide to Ruto, who has been in contact with Chinese officials, admitted that the comments went down badly in Beijing,” UK-based Financial Times reported.
Kenya’s ambassador to Kenya, Zhou Pingjian, is also yet to speak on the August 9 general election which has focused more on economic recovery. Offsetting China’s loans is one of the measures all four presidential candidates are exploring.
DP Ruto in different sets of interviews and rallies spoke against China’s influence on Kenya, from job creation to loans.
“These are Kenyan businesses and for those engaged in them, we have enough aeroplanes to deport them back to where they came from,” Ruto said.
“That Chinese nationals are roasting maize and selling mobile phones! All those businesses are for Kenyans,” he added.
His allies also vowed to hold Beijing accountable for what they argued were poorly disbursed loans that were embezzled rather than developing the nation.
"We know the owners of the newly constructed Nairobi Expressway. We are telling the Chinese government that we will hold you and your companies to account. Any government that gives loans and debts in the next two months, you are violating the constitution," Garissa Town MP Aden Duale stated during a rally in Kamukunji, Nairobi County on Saturday, June 4.
In an interview on KTN News on Thursday, July 7, the DP was as well drawn to the debate on the Nairobi Expressway, pledging to remove charges for motorists using the road.
He, however, assured that he would pay Kenya’s debt to China through avocado exportation. Ruto is seeking the presidency for the first time in his political career, running on a United Democratic Alliance (UDA) ticket.
Other than the DP, Roots Party presidential candidate, George Wajackoyah also promised to deport idle foreigners in the city and repay Kenya’s debt to China through bhang farming, snake rearing and exporting hyena testicles.
Azimio La Umoja flagbearer, Raila Odinga, however, promised to improve diplomatic relations with all foreign superpowers.
“China came in as a result of many African nations' failure to raise capital for infrastructure development. Working with China is not to the exclusion of the rest. We want to work with everyone else. We want Europeans to come & invest in Africa,” he stated in May 2022.
A July 2022 report released by the development firm, Inter Region Economic Network (IREN), revealed that Kenya and other African countries prefer taking loans from China as the Asian nation is quick on decision-making and completes projects on time.
Beijing was also credited with minimal interference in host nation politics.
In the same month, the Chinese ambassador to Kenya, Zhou Pingjian, refuted reports that China has overburdened Kenya with loans. Kenya, he said, owes China only 10 per cent of its total debt.
Among the key projects built by the Chinese in Kenya are the Nairobi Expressway, the Standard Gauge Railway (SGR) and the Thika Superhighway.