President Uhuru Kenyatta has resumed foreign travel, after a pandemic-induced pause, to ensure his legacy programmes remain on course.
The President is expected to leave office in August 2022.
Bureaucrats at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs say he is focused on raising the country’s image through engagements on emerging issues such as vaccine access, gender equality, peace, security and trade.
Last week, President Kenyatta flew to France, where he attended the Generation Equality forum.
“I have made a commitment to end female genital mutilation and gender-based violence as envisioned in the Sustainable Development Goals,” he said on Wednesday.
Kenya, he said, would set aside at least $23 million for programmes meant to prevent gender-based violence from 2022 and increase the amount to $50 million by 2026.
“We continue to build on the work the President has done with international partners,” an official at the Foreign Affairs Ministry said on Friday.
“We are more integrated with Europe, Asia and North America than before. The trip to France was also as part of our multilateral global engagement champions of youth and gender…to make sure we draw women into the mainstream society and economy.”
While abroad in the last three weeks, the President has spoken about trade, human rights, security, Covid-19 vaccine access and “mutual respect”.
President Kenyatta is expected to co-host with British PM Boris Johnson the Global Partnership for Education summit in London.
The July 28 meeting targets to raise $5 billion in five years for investment in the education of 175 million children in low income countries.
But focus is also about the President’s legacy programmes back home.
He met French counterpart Emmanuel Macron on Wednesday to push for an urgent launch of the construction of the 233-kilometre Rironi-Nakuru-Mau Summit dual carriageway, as well as the Nairobi light rail.
The Sh160 billion project financed by the French under the public-private partnership agreed last October targets to expand the current road to four lanes from two.
Red tape has delayed its launch from early this year to September.
“These projects have not made the progress that was expected. Mr Kenyatta needed to have direct conversations with the president of France to see how we can disentangle whatever delays these projects are suffering and ensure an accelerated implementation begins.”
A dispatch from State House said the construction of the road would start this year but did not indicate whether there had been progress on the city rail plan.
As the end of his term approaches, the President is also increasing speaking for Africa, diplomats at the ministry say.
Kenya serves in the UN Security Council and is the current chair of the East African Community.
On June 22 in Brussels, Belgium, President Kenyatta voiced the concerns of the Organisation of African, Caribbean and Pacific States (OACPS) over the rising unilateral sanctions the European Union has imposed some of its members.
Mr Kenyatta, currently the president-in-office of the summit of the 79-member institution since 2019, criticised the EU for violating a deal between the two sides known as the Cotonou Agreement.
“The unilateral application of measures, including sanctions, by the EU as imposed on Eritrea and Burundi, has created sensitivities and concerns in our group,” he told a committee of ambassadors in Brussels.
“I share the concern of OACPS that the unilateral approach adopted by the EU is against the spirit of the agreement,” he said.
The President also raised the issues of financial blacklisting with European Commission leaders when he was in Belgium.
The EU and the Western world also received Mr Kenyatta’s flak over the manner in which they handled vaccine approvals and distribution.
On June 18, he spoke at the Antalya Diplomacy Forum in Turkey where he accused rich countries of treating Africans like second-class citizens.
“We were active in the early stages and participated with corporations that were developing vaccines in clinical trials. When it came to access to the very vaccines that would have given us protection, we were at the bottom of the list,” he said.
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