We recently celebrated the 50th anniversary of our country’s independence from British colonial rule, said His Excellency Mohamed A. Mahat, Ambassador of the Republic of Kenya to Kuwait, at the start of an exclusive and wide-ranging interview with The Times.
“The date of 12 December is etched in the hearts of every Kenyan as it was on this day in 1963 that our country pulled down the British flag and raised the Kenyan flag for the very first time. This year is especially significant in that we are celebrating the Golden Jubilee of our country’s independence. We were not given our independence on a silver platter, we had to fight for it every step of the way. But, fifty years ago, despite the horrendous suffering inflicted on our people during colonial rule, our country opted for reconciliation rather than retribution with the British,” said the ambassador.
“I am reminded of the words of the Father of our Nation and first president, Jomo Kenyatta, who said, ‘We cannot forget the atrocities committed on the Kenyan people all these years, but we are willing to forgive and move forward.’ This magnanimous decision of the president, comparable to the one promoted by the late Nelson Mandela against perpetrators of apartheid in his country, prevented Kenya from sinking into bloodshed and set in motion a process of economic development that has seen the country achieve enviable growth over the decades.”
Revealing his fruitful overseas diplomatic career that began in 1996 with a stint in Australia, the ambassador noted: “As a career diplomat I have represented and served my country in several world capitals, including in Canberra, Abu Dhabi and Riyadh. Prior to my arrival here, I was serving at the Kenyan Foreign Ministry in Nairobi as the Director of the Department of Middle East, covering all Arab countries. During this period, I was involved with the Somali Peace Process negotiations that were initiated in Kenya. In between, I also took time off to augment my Masters in Marketing with a Masters Degree in Diplomacy from Birmingham University in the UK.”
Speaking about bilateral relations between Kenya and Kuwait, the envoy added, “The relations between our two countries go back before the discovery of oil in Kuwait, when the port of Mombasa in Kenya, along with ports in India, were the major trading centers for almost everything that Kuwait needed. After independence, both countries began to enjoy special relations as Kuwait was one of the first countries to recognize the independence of Kenya. Kuwait opened its embassy in Nairobi in 1965 and raised diplomatic recognition to ambassadorial level in 1968. Unfortunately, due to various circumstances, we could not immediately reciprocate this gesture and opened our embassy here only in 2007.”
“I was appointed as Kenya’s first ambassador to the State of Kuwait in 2007 and since September of that year I have been representing my country her. I would like to take this opportunity to express my profound gratitude to His Highness the Amir Sheikh Sabah Al-Ahmad Al-Jaber Al-Sabah, the government and people of Kuwait, for their generosity and support to Kenya and for extending full cooperation to the functioning of our embassy here. We in Kenya are especially proud of our contribution to supporting Kuwait and its just cause during the 1990 invasion, and for our participation in the United Nations Peace Keeping Force that has helped protect the security of Kuwait. We are honored that Kuwait remembers our contribution and this is made clear to me in my interactions with government officials and whenever I visit Kuwaiti ‘diwaniyas’.”
“I would like to add that when it comes to generosity, Kuwait is in a league of its own. There are very few countries that can be compared to Kuwait in its bounteousness to other countries in the developing world especially countries in Africa. This munificence was clearly demonstrated during the recent Third African Arab Summit held in Kuwait, when the country hosted more than 2,000 delegates taking care of their every need. Also, signaling the importance he attaches to the development of the Continent, the Amir extended US$ One billion in soft loans to Africa, in addition to other generous contributions made during the Summit.”
“On the sidelines of the African Arab Summit, which was attended by our President His Excellency Uhuru Kenyatta, Kenya and Kuwait inked four important agreements, one on the setting up of a Joint Commission, another on Avoidance of Double Taxation, a third on Protection of Investments and finally one on Tourism. During the visit, our President extended an invitation to His Highness to visit Kenya, which the Amir graciously accepted. We are also in the process of initiating a state visit to Kuwait by our President sometime next year, when he is expected to head a large business delegation to this country,” disclosed the diplomat.
“The strong and cordial bilateral relations between the two countries are further bolstered by generous financing from the Kuwait Fund for Arab Economic Development. The Fund has over the years provided millions of dollars in soft loans for the social and economic development of Kenya, including funding for construction and rehabilitation of irrigation canals in the agriculture sector, infrastructure projects such as roads and highways, and for the building and renovation of hospitals and schools.”
“While the Kuwaiti government has extended liberal support to the Kenyan economy, trade and business investments from the private sector have plenty of scope for development. I would like to point out that the robust Kenyan economy is the largest in East and Central Africa, and with a steady GDP growth of around five percent is today anchoring and spearheading development in East Africa. I would like to invite Kuwaiti businesses and entrepreneurs to consider investing in Kenya’s successful growth story. You name any sector of the economy and Kenya has the potential for investment in that field, no matter whether it is agriculture, mining, energy, real-estate, telecommunications or tourism.”
“Tourism and real estate are already well-established sectors that have drawn significant global investments in its residential and commercial properties, as well as in hotels, resorts, parks and other tourism infrastructures. Agriculture and agricultural processing is another field where Kenya leads in East Africa. For instance, fresh flowers grown in Kenya are flown to Holland and then re-exported to Kuwait to be sold at fancy prices in local shops; this trade could very easily be done directly. The only constraint at the moment is the lack of direct flights, but we are working on resolving this issue. And, once there are direct flights, I expect tourism and trade to take off in a big way.”
Kenya has much to offer to both tourists and businesses and I would like to add that our embassy here, along with my Kuwaiti counterpart in Kenya, His Excellency Yacoub Al-Sanad and the Kuwaiti embassy in Nairobi, are working tirelessly to promote and enhance bilateral cooperation in economic, social and cultural fields. In conclusion, I would like to appeal to Kuwaitis to make Kenya their tourism and business destination in the near future.
To businesses, I would like to say that in Kenya you will find one of the most diversified economies in Africa with a highly skilled workforce and one which has a welcoming and attractive investment climate.
The recent signing of investment protection agreement between our two countries should assuage your fears about investing in the Kenyan economy. To tourists I would like to add that while in recent years Kenya has had its share of world problems and has been held hostage of circumstances, the country as a whole is peaceful and secure.
Travel to Kenya is hassle free, Kuwaitis can have visa on arrival or visa stamped here at the embassy and there are plenty of flights from capitals around the GCC. No matter how you travel, I can assure you that in Kenya you will find a destination unlike any other you have visited. So welcome to Kenya.”
- The Times Report