Japan and Kenya
This year, for the first time since its launch in 1993, the Tokyo International Conference on African Development (TICAD) will be held in Africa. Directors chose Nairobi, Kenya, as a symbol of the unique relationship between the two nations.

Japan’s involvement in Kenya started in 1903, and trade between the two countries expanded throughout the 20th century. A Japanese embassy in Kenya was established just six months after Kenya gained independence in 1963.

The cornerstone of the two countries’ relationship has always been trade. Japan has long been an importer of Kenya’s agricultural goods like tea and tobacco. Kenya, in more recent years, has begun importing cars, machinery and manufactured goods from Japan. In 2013, Kenya exported $46 million to Japan and imported $911 million.

Despite both the Kenyan and Japanese governments agreeing that the relationship has been mutually beneficial, the trade gap between the two nations has long favored Japan, causing distress for some Kenyan businessmen. As a result, the Japanese government has steadily increased its aid to Kenya and other African nations.

As of 2014, Japan had invested $14 billion in Africa, with Kenya receiving the most aid. Japan has funded over 300 development projects in Kenya in the past 27 years, with no signs of slowing down. Since 2012, the Japanese prime minister has funded Kenyan development projects totaling $28 million.

However, the relationship between Japan and Kenya extends beyond their economies. Japan has a large cultural influence in Kenya, which hosts Japanese film festivals and traditional Japanese art. The largest population of Japanese nationals in Africa resides in Kenya, and the largest population of foreign athletes in Japan is Kenyan.

Political relations between the countries are also unique in sub-Saharan Africa, with many signs of good faith and cordiality between the two nations. Kenya donated $1 million to Japan following the Fukushima Daiichi disaster in 2011. Several prime ministers and members of the Japanese royal family have traveled to Kenya recently, with the crown prince visiting in 2010. Likewise, the Kenyan president and countless ministers visit Japan each year.

In his opening address at the TICAD Summit, Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta expressed his hope for the collective futures of Africa, Japan and Kenya.

“We look forward to…a new strengthening of the ties not just between Africa and Japan, but also between African nations themselves,” said Kenyatta. “For Africa is rising, ladies and gentlemen.”

John English

Photo: Flickr

What Elections in Kenya Mean to the United States
Uhuru Kenyatta is slated to be the next President of Kenya. The elections in Kenya on Monday were a monumental and happy moment because they were one of the most peaceful elections the country has ever had. And now, as ballots are being counted, Kenyatta has the lead.

For the United States, while the peaceful elections are celebrated, Uhuru Kenyatta becoming President may lead to some serious problems. Kenyatta has been indicted by the International Criminal Court (ICC) for a long list of heinous crimes. He has been accused of stirring up the local militia to conduct retaliation attacks in the previous election that killed numerous people, including innocent women and children.

The United States has invested a lot in Kenya, serving as an important ally to the region. Even more, Kenya has become a crucial center on Terror.

Yet, the United States is dedicated to justice. And supporting or working with a president that has been indicted by the ICC for crimes against human rights, against women and children, would not be living up to this value. President Obama’s administration, as well as the administrations of many of its allies, are faced with the very tough decision to either completely distance themselves from Kenya, because even small things like diplomats shaking Kenyatta’s hand could be problematic, or figure out a way to work with Kenyatta and still put forth a message of justice.

Jendayi Frazer, former Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs, said, “This is going to pose a very awkward situation. Kenyatta knows he needs the United States, and the United States knows it needs Kenya.” Some even say that the United States needs Kenya more than Kenya needs the United States.

The Obama Administration has refused to talk about the situation, only saying, in the words of President Obama, “The choice of who will lead Kenya is up to the Kenyan people.” Once Kenyatta is announced President, the United States, and its allies must proceed very cautiously.

– Angela Hooks

Sources: NY Times, CNN
Photo: Forbes

The 2013 Kenyan ElectionOn Monday, the first general elections since December 2007 were held in Kenya. In 2007, the Kenyan election resulted in weeks of bloodshed, making this election an important push for political peace. These elections are also the first held under the new constitution passed during the 2010 referendum designed to avoid violence. Millions of Kenyans arrived at polling stations to cast ballots and vote for their representatives, members of parliament, governors, senators, and president. Running for President are Prime Minister Raila Odinga and Deputy Prime Minister Uhuru Kenyatta. Kenyatta along with his running mate William Ruto are facing trial by the International Criminal Court for crimes against humanity, accused of organizing the riots that took place in the 2007 Kenyan election.

In the minds of every Kenyan election is the violence that occurred in 2007. After incumbent President Mwai Kibaki was re-elected, riots erupted all over Kenya. Supporters of the opposition candidate, Raila Odinga, were enraged by allegations that the election was rigged by supporters of Kibaki. Ethnic violence erupted between members of the Kikuyu, Kibaki’s tribe, and the Luo and Kalenjin tribes, as opposed to the Kikuyu. Eventually, an agreement was reached wherein Kibaki would hold the position of President and Opposition leader Raila Odinga would be Prime Minister. Up to 1,000 Kenyans were killed and 600,000 displaced during the riots which lasted for more than a week. In light of the violence caused by the disputed and controversial election of five years ago, Kenyatta, Ruto, and other major politicians have urged voters to “keep the peace.”

In preparation for this recent election, people stocked up on supplies, food, and fuel, in case of riots did break out. Stores were closed and the roads were empty of cars. People strayed from ethnically-mixed urban areas fearing violence. There was a heavy security presence with trucks of police patrolling polling stations. Unfortunately, the day was not without some incidents of violence. In Kilifi, Mandera, and Changamwe, several people, civilians and police officers alike, were killed. A group of armed men attacked a police post in Mombasa killing at least ten people, including two police officers. The separatist Mombasa Republican Council has denied accusations that they were responsible for organizing some of these attacks. It is uncertain whether the violence that did break out is connected to voting. Police were critiqued as being “ill-prepared” for violence that occurred near polling stations.

The weather was hot and the voting process was slow with faulty biometric voting kits at some stations causing delays. In Nairobi and Kibera, lines stretched for more than a kilometer and people waited up to nine hours in sweltering heat complaining about the slow process to cast their vote. Despite these technical glitches and occurrences of violence, the underlying theme seemed to be the determination of the Kenyan population to cast their votes. People began lining up at five in the morning, an hour before polls opened, and many of the 30,000 polling stations remained open an hour after the official closing times with long lines of people refusing to leave until they vote. At two in the morning in Kisumu, people were blowing vuvuzelas, an alarm to call people to the polling stations early. Thousands were already in line at four in the morning, two hours before the poll opened. This election was commented as being the most complicated election that Kenya ever held, but also one of the most peaceful. It was a vast improvement from the process of the previous election that showed many discrepancies.

Last Monday truly was a “historic day” for Kenya. In Kibera, a man was seen painting “Peace Wanted Alive” on the walls and roads. “We have been waiting for this for the past five years,” said Anthony Wachira, a Kenyan who had been waiting in line for hours to vote. “Above everything we want to vote for peace.”

– Rafael Panlilio

Source: BBCBBC, CNNNY Times