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Minister for Africa Mark Simmonds on Kenya's 50th Anniversary of Independence

I bring with me the warmest of wishes from the British people to the people of Kenya, and a message from Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II

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Mark Simmonds

The British High Commissioner Dr. Christian Turner today delivered a speech on behalf of British Foreign Office Minister for Africa Mark Simmonds on Kenya’s 50th anniversary.

He delivered the speech at the launch of a new book called ‘Nairobi: Then & Now’ co-sponsored by the British High Commission to commemorate the 50th anniversary.

Mr. Simmonds, whose arrival was delayed, arrives in Nairobi today for his second visit to Kenya. His visit will focus on Kenya’s 50th anniversary of Independence celebrations, at which he will represent the United Kingdom. During the visit Mr Simmonds will attend the Nairobi Governor’s Ball, the 50th anniversary celebrations at the Safaricom Stadium Kasarani, and a luncheon at Statehouse.

Speaking ahead of the visit, Mr Simmonds said:

I am delighted to be returning to Kenya to represent the British Government, and very much look forward to joining the 50th anniversary celebrations. I am bringing with me the warmest of wishes from the British people to the people of Kenya, including a message from Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth. The UK and Kenya have a long shared history. We will continue to work together to make it a long shared future of mutual benefit

The full text of the speech is as follows:


I am delighted to be back in Kenya to represent the British Government at Kenya’s 50th anniversary of Independence. I bring with me the warmest of wishes from the British people to the people of Kenya, including a message from Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth. I will now read that message:

On the occasion of the Republic of Kenya celebrating 50 years of independence, it gives me great pleasure to send the people of Kenya my warmest congratulations. My family and I have enjoyed a special and significant relationship with Kenya over the years and across the generations. The links between our two countries have deepened and matured since Kenya’s independence, and long may that continue. I would like to express my best wishes for the happiness, security and prosperity of the people of Kenya in the next 50 years and beyond.

Elizabeth R.

Her Majesty has made three official visits to Kenya, including in 1952 when she received the tragic news that her father King George VI had died. This is an example of our shared history, as are Mzee Jomo Kenyatta’s famous pre-Independence speeches at Speaker’s Corner in London’s Hyde Park.

This history is also represented in the book that we are gathered here to launch today. I have been fascinated to look at the pictures of parts of Nairobi as they once looked, next to pictures of the same places in the modern day, as captured in ‘Nairobi: Then and Now’. My congratulations to the co-authors Stephen and Bhavna Mills for preserving and describing this record in an accessible form to commemorate Kenya’s 50th anniversary of independence and to help educate future generations. I am also delighted to see another example of UK-Kenya partnership in that the foreword to the book is co-written by Doctors Evans Kidero and Christian Turner.

Nowadays we enjoy a modern partnership that is strong and broad. We want this to continue. Our mutual interests run across trade, development, defence & security, and people to people contacts. These links bring immense mutual benefits to both countries – some are more recent relationships whereas others have stretched across the whole 50 years of Kenya’s independence.

A key relationship is around trade and investment, where the facts speak for themselves. The UK is the biggest cumulative investor in Kenya, and Kenya’s second biggest export market, the biggest outside of Africa. British consumers buy Kenyan flowers, vegetables, tea and coffee. Major supermarkets like Marks and Spencer spend millions of Kenyan shillings on these goods every year, creating thousands of Kenyan jobs. The biggest private sector employers in Kenya are British companies. More than half of the biggest taxpaying companies in Kenya are UK based.

Looking ahead we want to support Kenya in its move towards middle income status. We are supporting this aspiration not only through trade and investment, but also through a diverse and sophisticated aid programme that is one of the biggest here. This development aid comes in the form of grants, not loans, and amounts to about KSh18 billion this year alone.

Education is another key factor in Kenya’s future. To fulfil the promise of a prosperous future young people crave education. The opportunity to learn is something that is rightly prized and valued here in Kenya, and the UK is a natural destination for Kenya’s youth to access top quality higher education.

The UK is home to one fifth of the top 100 universities in the world. Almost all of our universities have students and alumni from Kenya, and Kenyans continue to pick the UK as one of their most popular higher education destinations. Kenyans also benefit from close to 100 scholarships for UK study every year, ranging from Tullow and Rhodes to Commonwealth and Chevening Scholarships. Not to mention all of the other smaller bursaries, discounts and special offers that UK universities offer to Kenyan students.

The Republic of Kenya’s first and third Presidents both attended university in London, and many other prominent Kenyan leaders have also studied in the UK, including Dr. Wario here.

People to people links like those cemented through education are also developed through visits. More British tourists visit Kenya every year than from any other country – close to 200,000. A similar number of Kenyans live in Britain and the Kenyan diaspora sends back more in remittances than all development aid combined. Tourists create thousands of jobs for Kenyans. Last week the first Dreamliner landed in Mombasa on a direct charter flight from Gatwick in the UK, recognising the long-term potential for increased UK tourism to Kenya. I hope that this potential can be realised. Remember by the way that it was during a tourist visit here that Prince William proposed marriage to Kate Middleton – yet another Royal link with Kenya!

Many tourists come to Kenya to see wildlife. Without this tourists may go elsewhere. We work with Kenya to try to protect endangered species. For example, in February we will host a major conference in London that aims to stamp out the poaching trade, especially of elephant and rhino. Last week the British Army worked with Kenya Wildlife Service and Kenya Forestry Service to improve their patrolling techniques.

The presence of the British Army Training Unit in Kenya (BATUK) also provides considerable benefits. The British Army is by far the biggest employer in Nanyuki, and their training benefits people from across Laikipia, Samburu and Isiolo, to the tune of about KSh3.25 billion annually. BATUK has leases with a large number of both large and small landowners in the region, providing much-needed income, and allowing the land to be used at the same time for conservation. We also train and work together with the Kenyan Defence Forces (KDF), helping to bolster Kenya’s security.

One of the biggest security challenges we jointly face is to stop terrorism. We hope this need will be short term, but it could be long term. We consider that there is both a threat to Kenya, and to the UK, from foreign and regional fighters in the East Africa region, some of whom also have UK links. We work with Kenya to tackle this threat and to support the rule of law. During the Westgate atrocity British people were also victims, and UK investigators were on the ground working alongside the Kenyan investigation.

The UK and Kenya have a long shared history. We will continue to work together to make it a long shared future. Our positive relations with Kenya should not be overshadowed by the past. Reconciliation took a step forward earlier this year when we agreed a settlement with the Mau Mau War Veterans Association. As part of this we also recognised that Kenyans were subject to torture and other forms of ill treatment at the hands of colonial administration, and we expressed sincere regret that these abuses took place. We are now involved in work to establish a memorial in Nairobi to those victims, as part of this process. The competition to design this memorial is being launched today in conjunction with the Mau Mau War Veterans Association, the Kenya Human Rights Commission, and the Office of the Nairobi Governor, to coincide with the 50th anniversary celebrations.

In the years since Independence 50 years ago Kenya has gone though great change. While challenges such as poverty and insecurity still exist in places, Kenya has also grown into a modern democracy, with the potential to emerge as a regional economic powerhouse. Democracy creates stability which allows for prosperity. This year’s election built on one of Kenya’s greatest recent achievements of the last 50 years - the new Constitution of 2012 is one of the most progressive anywhere in the world.

Kenya at 50 has also engrained its identity onto the rest of the world. Kenya’s runners are feared and respected by athletes the world over. Kenya has carved out a niche for itself as one of the most spectacular and exciting outdoor destinations on the planet. And now Kenyan art and culture is attracting a great deal of interest across the continents.

The UK has been with Kenya throughout its journey of the last 50 years. And we will be with it for the next.

As Foreign Secretary William Hague said to the British Parliament, although we should never forget history and indeed must always seek to learn from it, we should also look to the future, strengthening a relationship that will promote the security and prosperity of both our nations. The ability to recognise error in the past but also to build the strongest possible foundation for cooperation and friendship in the future are both hallmarks of our democracy.

My sincere congratulations to Kenya on this 50th anniversary. Happy birthday!

Published 11 December 2013