Kenya says change in protocol improved foreign relations conduct

Saturday April 15 2023
Kenya's Foreign Affairs Cabinet Secretary Alfred Mutua.

Kenya's Foreign Affairs Cabinet Secretary Alfred Mutua. His ministry wants to take charge of the budget for seconded employees from other government departments for uniform operations. PHOTO | DIANA NGILA | NMG


Kenya’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs wants to take charge of the budget for seconded employees from other government departments for uniform operations, even as the country’s top diplomats indicated they are cutting red tape to relate better with partners.

Appearing before the Parliamentary Departmental Committee on Defence, Intelligence and Foreign Relations, Foreign Affairs Cabinet Secretary Alfred Mutua said uniform financial operations will ensure embassy staff are all paid at the same time.

He told MPs this week that some diplomatic staff attached to missions abroad from other government ministries or departments were facing delayed pay because their home ministries control their financial allocations.

Delayed pay

“If you are an employee of the Immigration Department and you are posted to Japan, [you will find that] the worker from Foreign Affairs has been paid but you find the one from Interior has not,” he said.

“Bring it all together, let all the monies come to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs,” he said on Wednesday.


As it is, the ministry only controls finances and other welfare of staff sent out directly from it. Each department with attachés abroad pays them directly.

MPs were appalled to learn some staff hadn’t been paid since the year began, reflecting the general financial crisis in the Kenyan government where March salaries delayed for most government workers. Mutua attributed it to the “weighty challenges due to a high debt” owed by the government.

The Kenyan minister defended a recent change in protocol where foreign missions in Nairobi can directly engage with government departments.

Reduce red tape

Dr Mutua told MPs that the adjustment helped reduce red tape, even though he argued the overall oversight remains with the Foreign ministry.

A March note verbale to embassies in Nairobi had said the ministry agreed on direct communication with government departments. The tradition has been that such meetings are arranged through the Foreign ministry.

The letter had also said Deputy President Rigathi Gachagua’s office will “coordinate the planning and supervise the implementation of development partners’ funded programmes”.

“Requests of meetings of cross-cutting nature and that which involve more than one ministry, it is advised that such requests should be made through the office of the deputy president for coordination purposes,” the letter shared with all foreign missions accredited to Nairobi had indicated.

Presidential directive

Dr Mutua said the change in protocol procedures was in fact a presidential directive to make it easier for government agencies to respond.

“It should also be noted that a key directive of His Excellency the President in the organisation and running of government affairs has been the need to reduce and cut out bureaucracies that have impeded efficiency in our government,” Mutua said on Wednesday.

“Allowing direct communication with line ministries is consistent with the need to foster efficiency in our government.”

The changes announced in March had been unprecedented. The Ministry had always been in charge of managing any relations with foreign entities. But according to Dr Mutua, it had come after various complaints on delays on responses to inquiries by embassies in Nairobi.

Caused confusion

However, the changes had caused confusion with some of Nairobi’s diplomats themselves fearing departments with little knowledge on geopolitics could make commitments dangerous to Kenya’s foreign policy.

Kenya’s donors fund up to 83 percent of the country’s development budget, according to the figures in the current fiscal year. Some of them work with organisations from the grassroots, counties and departments that are traditionally not under the ministry.

“Philosophically, this is also about our ethos, values and principles that we hold as a country. Kenya is not a closed, controlled society. We are a modern state, with modern and tested institutions that allow us to conduct government business in the most effective and practical manner,” Mutua told the parliamentary committee

“The ministry has not vacated one of its key roles — that of being the coordinator and implementer of the country’s foreign policy. Rather, this directive enhances the ministry’s role.”

According to the new arrangement, missions must furnish the ministry with a report within three days after any direct engagements.