Speech by High Commissioner Dr. Christian Turner
It is once again my privilege to welcome you all here this evening. This is my fourth Queen’s Birthday speech, and will also be my last in Kenya.
Over the last three years it has been my privilege to meet, listen to and get to know people right across this wonderful country. As a diplomat, my job is to engage. I have always tried to do so with energy and enthusiasm. To communicate and have dialogue; to seek to understand, to build relationships and ultimately overcome differences. What unites us is stronger than that which divides us.
(Mis)perceptions However, some misperceptions still remain about the UK’s role in Kenya. Some try to talk up differences, and build confrontation where none exists. I am a great admirer of Kenya’s vibrant media, but one thing I have learned is that this town loves a good conspiracy. It’s quite a thing as the British High Commissioner to read over your morning cornflakes that the UK is plotting to overthrow the Kenyan government or is funding terrorism. Some days in my job, that second cup of fine Kenyan coffee is an absolute must.
Ladies and Gentlemen, let me speak plainly. It is time to put the conspiracy theories aside. The UK wants the same thing as the Government and people of Kenya: inclusive growth that spreads to all parts of society, more investment to deliver jobs, greater security and terrorism defeated.
The simple truth is that our interests are aligned: a more prosperous and secure Kenya means a more prosperous and secure UK.
To illustrate that, I would like to highlight a few examples that I am proud of my excellent British High Commission colleagues delivering in the last 12 months. A QBP speech is not complete without a Kenyan animal metaphor, so let me use the Big Five:
- For the Elephant, let me give you our extensive security assistance. We just see the tip of its trunk, because for good reason we do not talk about the majority of our security activity. But let me assure you: we work very closely indeed with Kenyan counterparts to help keep Kenya safe. We want to do more. This week’s news that a British National was killed fighting for Al Shabab at Baure, if confirmed, shows once again that the threat is a shared one, and why we must work together to tackle radicalisation.
- For the Leopard, take DFID’s work to tackle poverty and improve health and education – delivering Ksh 24bn of aid a year to the people that most need it. Providing training for maternal health, resulting in nearly 8,000 skilled deliveries in the past year; or funding 1.75 million textbooks for Standard 1 pupils through TUSOME, working to double the number reaching required reading levels.
- The Lion is surely our military relationship, worth Ksh 8.6bn a year, providing training and support to the Kenyan military, including on the Kenyan border.
- The Buffalo is our work to increase trade & investment. We have supported 6 trade missions of over 100 companies to Kenya this year, including on financial services, renewable energy, hydrocarbons, education and security, key areas for Kenya’s growth. Leading British Companies are all around us creating jobs, as exemplified in the new British Chamber of Commerce whose members employ on average 800 Kenyans for every one ex-pat.
- The thick-skinned Rhinos, are our visitors – some of whom it is true drive taxis. Let me be clear. The UK has issued no universal ban against travel to Kenya. We have an obligation to advise our nationals of security all over the world, and in the last 12 months have issued advisories against France, Egypt and India. I am pleased that, following my consultations with Government security officials in Mombasa last week, the Foreign Secretary decided yesterday to lift our travel advice against that part of the Coast. Working together to tackle insecurity is our best response to travel advice. The UK still sends more visitors to Kenya a year than any other country, and I would like to see that number radically increase, with the UK working with Kenya’s Tourism sector to rebuild a world-beating product.
Ladies and Gentlemen, you may also have heard of the Small Five - less noticed, but no less important. Many of our achievements are delivered with minimum fuss or fanfare. Candidates for the Elephant shrew, Buffalo weaver, Leopard tortoise, Lion ant and Rhino beetle might be:
- DFID’s delivery of Ksh 10bn of improvements to Mombasa Port through TMEA to enhance trade into Kenya.
- The National Crime Agency’s work with Kenyan counterparts to seize a record haul of heroin (over 800kilos valued at Ksh 2.4bn) destined for Kenya’s streets; or to introduce a new child protection certificate to prevent sex offenders.
- Next month we will unveil a permanent memorial to all the victims of the Emergency Period, acknowledging the difficult parts of our shared history in a spirit of reconciliation and respect.
- We have committed Ksh 8.3bn to support Kenya’s refugee burden, working to implement the tripartite agreement so those refugees can return home.
- Finally, we have tripled the number of Chevening scholars coming to the UK to 32, with Kenya in the top 10 countries for the number of applications received for the 2015-16 Academic Year. I’d also like to congratulate our Kenyan Queen’s Young Leaders Award winners here tonight: Abdikadir, Caren and Samuel. They will be in London next week to meet the Queen and tell of their inspiring work in communities. What better example of why Kenya’s Youth are world beaters.
I could go on. I haven’t mentioned our efforts to end poaching and support Kenya’s leadership in the fight against illegal wildlife crime; our bomb detection equipment at JKIA; nor our work to support the President’s leadership in the essential fight against corruption. But you get my point: every day the UK is working with Kenya.
As we consider this joint activity, I also want to emphasise the shared values that bind us together. When I look at Kenya I see a proud nation, assured of its place in the world. The 2010 Constitution has already delivered huge gains, enshrining a belief in freedom, tolerance of others, devolving power, and respecting and upholding the rule of law. These are familiar values.
Exactly 800 years - and three days - ago, the Magna Carta was sealed at Runnymede in Surrey. With it came the first step on the UK’s journey towards parliamentary democracy and for the ability to disagree amicably. These things aren’t weaknesses, they are fundamental strengths. They are embodied in Her Majesty the Queen, whom we honour today, and her selfless approach of “servant leadership” based on integrity and service towards others.
I cannot put it better than President Kenyatta at this month’s Madaraka day. He said: “public office is a trust for the benefit of the wananchi. This trust entails prudent stewardship based on professionalism, integrity and diligence”. That is why we support him in the fight against graft. And why he was right to call for a community-centred response to tackling radicalisation. The UK has learnt the hard way that “communities beat terrorism”.
We will have differences of view. That is normal and healthy, and we should embrace dissent. Trust, accountability and openness will enhance, rather than undermine the achievement of our goals.
Ladies and Gentlemen, in conclusion, I have been enormously privileged to see the best that magical Kenya has to offer. Highlights have been visiting the majestic Maasai Mara, climbing Mt Kenya, swimming with dolphins in Wasini. (Although running in the Lewa Marathon was the most painful experience of my adult life). I have been struck throughout by the warmth and hospitality I have received. But let me admit there is one thing I don’t like. It is when I hear people talk down Kenya, or say that problems are insurmountable.
It is dangerous and wrong for a foreign diplomat to try to tell Kenyans what the answers are. Those answers will come from within Kenya, not from outsiders. But my advice for my successor about Kenya’s bright future will be as follows:
We must back the talent, ingenuity and resilience of the Kenyan people. We must be optimistic about Kenya’s courage and tenacity. We must talk, listen to, and tolerate one another. We must help to make the case for stability and inclusive growth, and create a better climate for investment and jobs.
I remain deeply confident in Kenya’s future, as well as in the strength of our bilateral relationship. I see the mutual affection between our peoples, and I am proud of how much we do day-in, day-out for each other. It has been a privilege for Claire, Theo, Constance & I to be part of that.
Asanteni sana. Toast to President & People of Republic of Kenya