Celebrating partnership, opportunity and commitment

Queen's Birthday Party in Nairobi

This was published under the 2010 to 2015 Conservative and Liberal Democrat coalition government

Queen's Birthday Party

It gives me very great pleasure to welcome so many of you here this evening to our celebration of Her Majesty the Queen’s Birthday.

My first public event when I arrived in Kenya last year was to host the 2012 Queens Birthday Party. We were in the middle of celebrations for the Diamond Jubilee and the fact that Her Majesty was in Kenya on her accession to the throne in 1952. This year Kenya is celebrating its own Jubilee, reflecting on 50 years of Independence, and looking forward to a bright future ahead.

We’ve come a long way since 1963. I was delighted recently to receive an account from Sarah Foster of her experiences when she was one of 10 employees who opened the new British High Commission in Nairobi in Shell House, Harambee Avenue, in June 1963. She writes: “the man in charge of the office was called Harry Stanley, who was quite a tough task-master, and without much of a sense of humour…When staff members went to his office to complain of various teething problems, he would always reply ‘Bash on chum!’ and give no further advice”. I hope some things at least have changed since then!

Over the last year I have learnt a great deal about this beautiful and diverse country. I hope I have begun to learn a little about what makes Kenya tick. Above all I have learnt about the depth and breadth of the UK-Kenya relationship. Ours is an historic partnership. It is a relationship in which we are like family, knowing the best – and worst – of each other. Like an iceberg, most of it sits beneath in the waterline, in a way which makes it easy to miss the substance. Let me share some examples of experiences over the past year which demonstrate our shared interests:

· In Mombasa I learnt how the trade and investment of British companies depends on the efficiency of the port, and how we are helping make the port more effective through DFID’s support to Trade Mark East Africa’s programme.

· Here in Nairobi we have celebrated Kenya’s unity in diversity with the first ever British High Commission Iftar celebration for the Muslim community and a Diwali celebration for the Hindu community, with many attendees being UK passport holders.

· We have supported Kenya’s role as a centre for innovation and ICT, through the likes of iHub, and I have learnt how Kenyans great and small are interacting on twitter, never missing an opportunity to let a Balozi know their views.

· In Samburu I have learnt about the threat of wildlife crime, and we have worked with Kenya to stop poaching urgently as a security as well as conservation issue.

· In Kericho during a visit to a Finlay’s tea and flower farms I was shown how UK commitment provides opportunities for trade and employment. The beautiful flowers at today’s event are from Finlay’s. That is a prompt for me to acknowledge British Businesses here in Kenya, worth Ksh130bn of bilateral trade a year. We would particularly like to thank our Gold sponsors for today’s event: De La Rue investors here for 20 years and printers of Kenya’s currency; EABL brewers of Tusker; and AFREN, investing in exploration and production of Kenyan hydrocarbons. Our silver sponsors are a wish list of top Kenyan British businesses: G4S, Seaforth, Barclays, Tullow Oil, Finlay’s, British Airways, Standard Chartered, Amiran Kenya, Kenya Airways and BCD travel.

· I have seen the British army training programme in Isiolo and Laikipia, how it enhances the partnership between UK and Kenyan forces, benefits the local community, and helps the Kenya military effort to secure peace in Somalia.

· In Lamu and Geddes I have learnt about the origins of the rich Swahili culture, and the opportunity for increased tourism. The UK, from where more tourists come to Kenya than from anywhere else, is committed to helping Kenya double its tourism numbers. Security is key to that, which is why I handed over a coastal patrol craft to the Lamu police.

· Of course, the coast is not just about tourism. In Kilifi I visited KEMRI (Kenya Medical Research Institute) and learnt how partnership between British, Kenyan and other researchers is tackling diseases such as malaria with British funding.

· In Tana Delta, I learnt how local disputes can quickly turn into conflict if underlying causes are not addressed. Britain gave just over £16 million (KSh 2.1 Billion) as part of our commitment to help Kenya deliver credible and peaceful elections.

· I visited Kamiti prison and was shown by inmates how UK funding is helping to build classrooms that will support the rehabilitation of inmates.

· In Kisumu I was shown how the British Council is partnering with schools and using English Premier League coaches to teach leadership to young Kenyans through football. I hope they are not as successful as the Kenya Rugby 7s English coach Mike Friday who has lifted Kenya above England in the world rankings and is supporting our work to develop rugby in Kenya.

· Sporting prowess was also on display in London when I visited Kenya House and the London investment conference with HE former president Kibaki during the Olympics. Kenya didn’t need much promotion though, after David Rudisha firmly put Kenya in the London spotlight with his amazing world record run.

These are just some of the examples of how our two countries are bound together, and all of us at the High Commission feel privileged and honoured to have experienced them.

Ladies and gentlemen, the hard facts speak for themselves. Britain is Kenya’s second largest export partner, and home to half of the top ten tax-paying companies in the country. Our development partnership is worth up to £140 million (over KSh18.5 Billion) a year. 20,000 British nationals live in Kenya, 200,000 Kenyans live in the UK, and some 200,000 British people visit Kenya each year – more than from any other country.

This is a moment of great opportunity and excitement for the people of Kenya as they strive to fulfil the promise of the Constitution, implement Vision 2030 and make devolution a reality. The United Kingdom will continue to do all that we can to support the people of Kenya in achieving these goals. Expectations are high. I often remind people that it has taken us over ten years to implement devolution in Britain; and that we have been making our constitution up for 200 years and still haven’t written it down yet. So as well as the ambition perhaps we should also be saying “haraka haraka haina baraka”!

It is right that as we mark Kenya’s 50th Jubilee year of independence, we celebrate the past and look to the opportunity of the future. Just this last week we have seen the historic settlement between the British Government and Mau Mau veterans, with a public statement of regret and acknowledgement of wrongs committed in the emergency period. The ability to learn from our past is a hallmark of our democracy. History teaches us that you cannot have lasting peace without justice, accountability and reconciliation. It is my sincere hope that last week’s announcement is the start of a process whereby we can acknowledge and discuss together the issues arising from a difficult period in our shared history.

In conclusion, today the Britain-Kenya relationship is a modern one. It is based on mutual respect, partnership and shared interests. The colonial era has passed. To talk of foreign interference, who needs each other more, or of East versus West is to miss the point. In the multi-polar world we are interrelated and our interests are intertwined.

And that is why I look forward to the next 50 years between our two countries, 50 years of partnership, opportunity and commitment.

Toast to President & People of Republic of Kenya

Published 18 June 2013