Kenya in tricky balancing act on Algeria amid Moroccan onslaught

Tuesday April 09 2024
Algerian Foreign Minister Ahmed Attaf Musalia Mudavadi

Algeria's Foreign Minister Ahmed Attaf (L) was in Nairobi, Kenya for a one-day visit that officials said was aimed at strengthening a historic partnership on April 8, 2024. PHOTO | COURTESY


Algerian Foreign Minister Ahmed Attaf was in Nairobi on Monday for a one-day visit in what officials said was to strengthen a historic partnership. But besides the fact that they held a ‘joint press conference’ that did not involve independent media, this trip came on the backdrop of serious Nairobi angling towards Algerian rivals Morocco.

Mr Attaf and his host, Prime Cabinet Secretary and Foreign and Diaspora Affairs Cabinet Secretary Musalia Mudavadi, did not mention Morocco by name.

Mudavadi in fact focused one economic reason indicating Algeria was Kenya’s “valued partner” in various sectors such as trade, agriculture, educational cooperation, infrastructure and energy.

Read: Kenya clarifies position on Sahrawi after gaffe

Algeria had in January donated 16,000 metric tons of Urea, a top-dressing fertiliser commonly used in the cultivation of maize, wheat and sugarcane. This was worth $4.8 million.

Algeria also donated some $100,000 for Kenya’s controversial Mission to Haiti which is currently stuck up in legal battles in Nairobi and Congressional political games in the US over funding.


Washington is considered the main guarantor of the UN-approved Multinational Security Support Mission (MSS) to the Haiti which Kenya had agreed to lead. It will cost money, though, and Kenya had been asking for donors to fund it.

Back to Algeria, Mudavadi said, “Kenya is committed to strengthening the bonds of friendship for the benefit of our people and the entire African continent.”

He lamented the low trade between the two sides, which saw Kenya export goods worth Ksh106 million to Algeria but buy Ksh206 million from there.

A Joint Economic Commission, a bilateral body of the two sides, is supposed to revive efforts of business opportunities later in June, he said.

But the trip was more symbolic on political front than business. The Algerian top diplomat said he was travelling to Nairobi because he saw the need for close ties amid rising tensions globally.

He said there has been “deteriorating regional and international environments,” which he said included Palestine, East Africa and the Sahel-Saharan regions.

“My visit comes as you all know at a time when the world is undergoing profound and exhilarating changes and ever-increasing tensions, crises and conflicts that continue to imply huge challenges both at international and regional levels.

Read: Algeria, Morocco spar over Western Sahara at UN

“In such times of great uncertainties, we firmly believe in the vital importance of maintaining close contacts,” Attaf said.

Algeria and Morocco actually shut down each other’s borders, meaning they have no diplomatic contacts. The meeting also came as Kenya enhanced efforts to open up relations with Morocco. Attaf arrived as parliament vetted the first ever ambassadorial nominee to Rabat, Jessica Gakinya. She should be reporting by June.

In addition, Kenya’s embassy in Algiers which is usually accredited to the Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic (SADR) will no longer do so in recent changes to Nairobi’s stance. That is important because Morocco claims the territory controlled by SADR which is incidentally run by a government exiled in refugee camps in Algeria.

Kenya’s government has since September 2022 tinkered with upending relations with Sahrawi, even though officials say that doesn’t affect ties with Algeria, one of the biggest proponents of SADR.

Soon after he took office, President William Ruto initially announced he will see the Sahrawi mission in Nairobi closed before the Foreign Ministry rescinded that and said it will work with the African Union position. At the same time, Morocco announced a donation of fertilizer to Nairobi.

Except the AU has struggled to resolve the matter and Morocco now wants the issue solved under the United Nations Security Council. The two sides, Morocco, and SADR have disagreed on whether autonomy should be granted or full independence. Rabat supports the former.

Last month, Kenya sent Foreign Affairs Principal Secretary Korir Sing’oei to Rabat to deliver a special message on ties.