April 19, 2014

Uhuru Kenyatta’s visit to China seen as ‘snub’ to Obama

Uhuru-China
button print grnw20 Uhuru Kenyattas visit to China seen as snub to Obama

President Uhuru Kenyatta’s decision to visit China and Russia before visiting the United States is headlined in Sunday’s Washington Post as “a snub to Washington.”

The influential newspaper reports in the US in a dispatch from Nairobi that Mr Kenyatta’s choice of destinations “highlights the United States’ waning influence in a country vital to US interests.”

President Kenyatta arrived in China Sunday from Russia where he cheered Kenyan athletes and met Russia’s top state officials.

Post correspondent Sudarsan Raghavan notes that President Barack Obama’s recent bypassing of his father’s homeland during his first extended trip to Africa “provoked anger and frustration among many Kenyans.”

They believed that “Washington was punishing them for electing Kenyatta and Ruto,” the Post’s story adds.

A similar interpretation is offered in Beijing-based China Daily by Bob Wekesa, a Kenyan studying in a PhD programme at Communication University of China. Mr Wekesa’s commentary is titled “Turning Point as Kenya Looks East.”

“That China will be Kenyatta’s focused maiden overseas excursion speaks volumes about the pecking order and global significance of China in Jubilee’s geopolitical strategy,” Mr Wekesa writes.

“Kenyatta’s visit will likely be framed as a continuation of this decline of the Western narrative, more so considering that Kenya has long been seen as tightly integrated into a Western worldview.”

Mr Wekesa also cites the “Jubilee team’s push-back against the ‘choices have consequences’ and ‘only essential contact’ phraseology at the height of electioneering and the subsequent arm’s-length relations with the West.”

The Obama administration has kept its distance from Mr Kenyatta due to his indictment by the International Criminal Court on charges of orchestrating crimes against humanity.

At the same time, the US has no intention of rupturing its close relationship with Kenya, which provides valuable assistance to Washington’s war on terrorism.

It remains to be seen whether Mr Kenyatta would be welcomed by the White House if he were to visit the United States.

That possibility will arise if Mr Kenyatta comes to New York next month for the annual assembly of world leaders at the United Nations. Mr Obama is expected to attend that session.-Daily Nation