“The Lion and the Buffalo”: Working together in partnership

Speech by High Commissioner Dr. Christian Turner on Queen’s Birthday Party, Nairobi

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

QBP 2014

Waheshimiwa, mabibi na mabwana, habari za jioni. Ni furaha yangu kuwakaribisha nyote sherehe hii ya Kuzaliwa kwa Malkia

It is once again my privilege to welcome you all here this evening, to celebrate her Majesty the Queen’s Birthday. It is however in light of the tragic events of recent days an occasion tainted with great sadness. I would like to propose that we now observe a minute’s silence for the victims of the appalling attacks in Mpeketoni. To those who lost their lives, and the families who have lost those dearest to them: our thoughts and prayers are with them at this time.


Thank you.

Now, more than ever, is the time for us to come together. The partnership between Britain and Kenya is not only historic – it is deep; it is abiding; and it is real. Many of you will be familiar with the statistics:

  • On trade, the UK remains the biggest cumulative external investor in Kenya, and the largest trading partner outside of East Africa, in excess of £1bn (KSh 155bn) a year. UK exports rose by 12% from 2012 – 2013. Five and a half of the top ten taxpayers are British associated companies, and the top two private sector employers in Kenya are British.

  • UK aid investment in Kenya has increased by 50% in recent years. We invest over £110m a year to help the poorest Kenyans, improve health and education, tackle conflict and create jobs.

  • On defence and security issues, the UK is Kenya’s longest and most steadfast ally. Our military cooperation with Kenya is worth £58m (KSh 8.64bn) a year, the lion’s share of that going directly into the Kenyan economy. We provide training and support to the Kenyan military to deliver a more stable and secure Kenya.

  • But perhaps most important is the friendship between our peoples. More people travel to Kenya every year from Britain than from any other country. There are 200,000 people of Kenyan origin living in the UK. When Kenyans want to travel or study abroad their first choice is Britain. Everywhere I go in Kenya, I am struck by the deep goodwill and affection that comes from our long history together.

Ladies and Gentlemen, in all of these areas we all want the same thing: a more prosperous and secure Kenya. We want to see inclusive growth, more investment to deliver more jobs, and the delivery of Vision2030.

Some in recent months have questioned that shared interest. To address that, I would like to, in good Kenyan tradition, tell a story of two animals. One summer’s day, when the earth lay cracked beneath a burning noon sun, a Lion and a Buffalo came at the same moment to a watering hole to drink. They fiercely disputed which of them should drink first, and were soon locked in combat. On stopping to gather their strength for a final assault, they saw some Vultures circling up above, waiting to feast upon the one which should fall first. They at once stopped their quarrel, saying: “It is better for us to work together than to become a meal for the vultures.”

Ladies and Gentlemen, the allegory I am sure you will see is simple. There have been a lot of rumours about the recent travel advice issued by the UK Government, which cautioned against all but essential travel to Mombasa Island and its immediate surrounds, as well as the temporary closure of our one-person consular office in Mombasa. Let me be crystal clear: this was driven solely by our objective assessment of the threat faced by British nationals there, an assessment shared with the Kenyan authorities. The change was in no way driven by political or economic factors. We did not evacuate anyone; nor did our advice for the rest of the country change. Our level of advice for Nairobi, or for that matter Kenya’s wonderful national parks and safari destinations, has not changed for two years. 300 Britons left on the instruction of their tour company, but 25,000 remain. Britain is not abandoning Kenya, and remains here for the long haul.

What concerns me in this are some of the underlying myths which circulated about the advisory change. I would like to tackle three of them head on:

The first myth is that Britain wants “regime change” in Kenya. Which was the first Government to congratulate the Jubilee administration on winning the 2013 election? Which was the first Government to invite President Uhuru Kenyatta to travel abroad, to the London Somalia conference in May 2013? It was Kenya’s oldest partner, the UK. The Government of Kenya is democratically elected, will be in power until at least August 2017, and the British Government is committed to working with it to achieve our shared goals. We are glad to do so in a climate which allows for a strong opposition, space for civil society, a free media, respect for human rights and an end to impunity, the rollout of devolution, tackling corruption and full implementation of Kenya’s Constitution. In all of this our goals and those of the government and people of Kenya are closely aligned. To take two examples from the last year which illustrate this: we have shown shared resolve to end impunity for poachers, and stop the economic and security threats that come from the runaway increase in international wildlife crime. We have also reached a historic Mau Mau settlement, showing that we are able not only to confront our shared past, but to learn from it; and move forward stronger and in a spirit of friendship and reconciliation.

The second myth is that there is a competition between East and West in Kenya. I don’t agree. This is not the cold war or the Great Game of the nineteenth century. This is a multi-polar world where all countries benefit from a rise in foreign investment. I welcome and am excited about China’s investment in Kenya. It will bring jobs and infrastructure which will benefit UK interests and UK businesses. The UK and China enjoy a vibrant partnership. There is no binary choice between East and West. Kenya should make investment decisions purely on what is most in Kenya’s interests. The suggestion made by some that the UK would want “economic sabotage” in Kenya is laughable: a more prosperous Kenya is a more secure Kenya, which in turn means a more secure United Kingdom. Our relationship runs deep and broad; our goals intertwined. Any attempt on the part of the UK to sabotage the Kenyan economy would therefore represent a massive own goal – and as I hope our Uruguayan friends shall learn this evening, we are not in the habit of scoring own goals.

The third myth is that the UK intends to abandon Kenya to face the threat of terrorism alone. We do not. The terrorist threat is a global one which affects us all. The wounds from Westgate are still raw, and the evil events this week in Mpeketoni only harden our resolve to stand shoulder to shoulder with Kenyans to tackle this threat. Going forward, we are committed to strengthening Kenya’s capacity to counter this shared threat through assistance on investigating, prosecuting and detaining terrorists in line with international human rights standards. Our support also extends to helping Kenya strengthen its borders and airports; to supporting police reform; and to our shared vision for a stable and prosperous Somalia. Vital in this effort will be to involve communities themselves. Actions to seek out suspected terrorists must not undermine community and national cohesion, nor risk pushing a new group of young people towards radicalisation. Muslims make up over 15% of the Kenyan population, and they want peace and stability like other Kenyans. I would like to applaud our Chief Guest, Leader of the Majority Aden Duale, for his leadership on this point.

Ladies and gentlemen, I have said now is the time for us all to work together. What better example of that than the corporate sponsors who represent the close business ties between UK and Kenya, and have made tonight’s event possible. I would like to thank them:

  • I mentioned that a resurgent Kenyan economy benefits British companies. Our Gold sponsors tonight are De La Rue printing Kenyan bank notes; Standard Chartered, leaders in Kenyan Banking; RMA Group distributing for Jaguar Landrover; G4S keeping us safe; and EABL quenching our thirst.

  • I mentioned the two largest private sector employers in Kenya. One is G4S, the other is Silver sponsor Finlays, producing some of the finest flowers, vegetables and tea in Kenya.

  • Our other silver sponsors are BCD Travel and British Airways, continuing efforts to support people links and tourism. Tullow Oil and BG Group are at the vanguard of oil and offshore gas exploration respectively, along with Afren – another exploratory success story with a fine record of building strong community relations in Mandera, Wajir and Kwale Counties.

  • Finally in our list of Silver sponsors, I would like to thank Barclays, another leader in the finance sector; DHL Express delivering our packages; Seaforth in shipping clearance and Amiran Group in agricultural produce in telecoms.

  • A final word of thanks to Mobius Motors, who shuttled many of you to my gate this evening in their prototype vehicle.

Ladies and gentlemen, there is much which unites us. The Kenyan Constitution, one of the most progressive of its kind in the world, sets out clear processes for measured debate and addressing disagreements. It is essential that engagement on all sides is carried out in a spirit of collaboration, calm, national unity, and rejection of all forms of violence. We cannot allow myths and conspiracies to distract us from where our combined efforts need to be.

Let us be clear that those who engineer insecurity do so to diminish confidence and stability, and to adversely affect economic growth and prosperity. Our response must be resolute. The UK’s commitment to Kenya is unshakeable. We will continue to stand with Kenya as we have through our long history.

It is time for all of us: Lions, Buffalos - and even Pandas – to stand together. In doing so, we will deny the Vultures their day.

May God bless you and this remarkable country Kenya.

Asanteni sana.

Toast to President & People of Republic of Kenya

Photos of the event on Flickr

Published 20 June 2014