Kenya's deputy president to run foreign policy rule in new shift

Friday March 03 2023
Kenya’s Deputy President Rigathi Gachagua

Kenya’s Deputy President Rigathi Gachagua. He could now be the face of the country’s top foreign policy dealings after taking charge of “cross-cutting” meetings with foreign envoys. PHOTO | DPCS


Kenya’s Deputy President Rigathi Gachagua could now be the face of the country’s top foreign policy dealings after taking charge of “cross-cutting” meetings with foreign envoys, eating the lunch of the substantive Foreign Affairs Cabinet secretary.

An official memo sent to diplomatic missions, and known as note verbale, on Wednesday instructed embassies to consider working directly with specified government agencies as long as they copy in the Ministry of Foreign and Diaspora Affairs in correspondences.

And The EastAfrican understands the change is a result of numerous complaints from diplomats in Nairobi about the bureaucratic delays on approving meetings by the ministry now headed by Dr Alfred Mutua.

It means Deputy President Gachagua will handle meetings where embassies want to engage more than one government department at once, the note said.

“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 indicated.

Vienna Convention


The note appends Kenya’s age-old tradition of handling foreign policy affairs through the ministry in charge of foreign affairs, something which is also the presumption in the Vienna Convention of 1961 to which Kenya is signatory.

According to the Convention, however, the host states may decide the exact government agency to handle foreign policy.

“All official business with the receiving state entrusted to the mission by the sending state shall be conducted with or through the Ministry for Foreign Affairs of the receiving state or such other ministry as may be agreed,” says Article 41 of the treaty that guides diplomatic relations and immunities.

In Nairobi, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs has in the past protested to foreign missions that tried to engage other government departments directly without prior approvals from the ministry. On Wednesday, the memo said the move was to cut red tape now being blamed on the Ministry of Foreign and Diaspora Affairs.

“…It has been agreed in the interest of efficiency, that the missions may communicate directly with ministries, departments and agencies of the government of Kenya without going through ministry of foreign and diaspora affairs. A copy of the correspondence should, however, be shared with the ministry,” the memo says.

“In the interest of coordination, the foregoing is subject to requirement by the missions to [provide] a report to the ministry of Foreign and Diaspora Affairs on the held deliberation and decision undertaken within three days of the meeting.”

The memo does not say whether the ministry can object to meetings. But sources told The EastAfrican that neither the Cabinet secretary nor other officials may have any influence on decisions or meetings to be scheduled from now on.

Supports move

Dr Mutua said he supports the move to reduce delays.

“As CS for Foreign and Diaspora Affairs, I have been bothered by many pending MoUs and lost opportunities due to traditional and mostly elitist based bureaucracy,” he said.

“After talks with the diplomatic community, I have issued the following notice for Chap Chap interactions.”

The note verbale came as Dr Mutua seeks to learn new ropes in a foreign policy arena in which he had had no past experience in.

Last week, two diplomats told The EastAfrican they had struggled to secure appointments with senior government officials as the ministry is still rebuilding, with staff unsure of their respective roles in the new dispensation.