Kenya reiterates One-China Policy

Thursday January 25 2024
Prime Cabinet Secretary Musalia Mudavadi

Kenya's Prime Cabinet Secretary Musalia Mudavadi. PHOTO | FILE | NMG


Kenya will not depart from its age-old tradition of recognising One China with Beijing as its capital, Prime Cabinet Secretary and Foreign Affairs and Diaspora Cabinet Secretary Musalia Mudavadi said on Thursday after talks with Chinese officials.

The message, delivered for the third time in the past three months, is the latest bid by Nairobi to stick to the majority side of the world that have stuck with Beijing even as Taiwan seeks independent recognition.

Mudavadi is on a trip to China, his first since he became Nairobi’s top diplomat in October.

Read: Kenya reverses policy on communication with embassies

In talks with Chinese counterpart Wang Yi, he told his hosts Kenya’s position remains the same on Taiwan issue, as hosts promised to guarantee African-style development in Kenya.

“On behalf of the Kenyan government, I reiterate that Kenya will continue to unswervingly adhere to the One-China principle and stand with China on issues such as Taiwan and human rights,” Mudavadi said, according to a dispatch from the Chinese Foreign Ministry.


“We look forward to developing closer cooperation with China and opening up a new 60 years of Kenya-China comprehensive strategic cooperative partnership.”

The trip is a fence-mending mission for Nairobi which struggled to steady the ties with China last year after the government of President William Ruto came to power following his critical comments on China during campaigns.

But now that the water is under the bridge, two more things happened: Taiwan recently elected a new President in Lai Ching-te from the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP), considered by Beijing as separatist.

The People’s Republic of China, as China is formally known, has been recognised at the UN since October 1971, replacing Republic of China (Taiwan). Kenya and many other African countries endorsed that vote at the UN.

Read: Africa’s foreign policy decisions weak on research, experts say

And since the elections in Taiwan earlier in January, many countries across the continent have been re-endorsing that one-china policy with Beijing as its capital. In Africa, only eSwatini sides with Taiwan today.

Nairobi has spoken of One-China policy since November when the two sides started marking 60 years of diplomatic ties.

Yet China too has enjoyed latest positive commendations at the UN Human Rights Council. On Wednesday, China’s Foreign Ministry said some 120 countries have “spoken highly of China’s human rights progress” in the wake of recent criticism of Beijing policy against minorities in Uighur region. Many of those countries are African.

China’s version of human rights, it told the Council, is adopting new measures to safeguard human rights, “covering areas of people’s wellbeing, legal protection for human rights, international cooperation on human rights and the work related to UN human rights mechanisms.”

Mudavadi’s comments reflect the desire to please the host. And Wang Yi, China’s member of the Political Bureau of the CPC Central Committee and Foreign Minister, argued China and Kenya have always “understood and supported each other, becoming good friends with mutual trust and good partners with win-win cooperation.”

The two sides have achieved fruitful results from their pragmatic cooperation, a dispatch indicated, citing the Mombasa-Nairobi Standard Gauge Railway (SGR) and other landmark projects of the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI). 

Read: Kenya tops in China projects completion ahead of deadline

“China appreciates Kenya's adherence to the One-China principle, adheres to the basic norm of international relations of non-interference in internal affairs, and supports China's just position and legitimate rights,” Wang said.

“China also firmly supports Kenya in safeguarding sovereignty, independence and national stability, and supports Kenya in independently promoting national development. China is willing to consolidate political mutual trust between the two sides, deepen all-round cooperation, and push China-Kenya relations to a higher level.”

In turn, countries like Kenya will get African-style modernisation, a Chinese view of development projects coming in only on request by locals. 

In the past, China built most of the latest infrastructure in Kenya. But then it got entangled in debt piling, leading to critics to rise against Beijing. One of those was President William Ruto.

But since October, he has upended his speech, asking Chinese investors to go on target infrastructure progress, as well as ICT.

Mudavadi’s trip is not expected to lead to a new infrastructure deal. But it may help clean up a relationship that had looked lukewarm.

In Beijing, Mudavadi spoke of a partnership that is strong and pragmatic and praised the Belt and Road for supporting Kenya’s own  economic development.