Statement by President of Kenya, Uhuru Kenyatta, during discussions with the OECs Heads of Government in Barbados, on Friday, August 9, 2019.
- The Honourable Mia Amor Mottley, Prime Minister of Barbados,
- The Honourable Allen M. Chastanet, Prime Minister and Minister for Finance, Economic Growth, Job Creation, External Affairs and the Public Service, of St Lucia and Chair of CARICOM,
- Honourable Ministers and Representatives of the Heads of Government of the Organisation of Eastern Caribbean Countries (OECC),
- Ambassador Irwin LaRocque, Secretary-General and Chief Executive Officer of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM),
- Distinguished Participants,
- Ladies and Gentlemen,
Allow me at the onset to express my most sincere gratitude to the Hon. Prime Minister, Mia Amor Mottley, on a number of counts. First, for graciously inviting me on an official visit to this beautiful country; for the warm reception and hospitality that has been accorded to me and my delegation since we arrived in Bridgetown; third, for facilitating this meeting by her gracious act of invitation to members of the Organization of Eastern Caribbean States (OECS). I am delighted that all the countries are represented and for this I wish to kindly request each one of you to convey my gratitude to your Head of Government.
I am particularly honored by the presence of Rt. Honourable Allen M. Chastanet, Prime Minister of St. Lucia and Chair of CARICOM.
I bring you all heartfelt greetings from the people of Kenya and the African continent – your motherland, at large.
When the decision was made for my first Caribbean tour, my desire was clear: to engage with each Caribbean country. When this became logistically impossible to achieve, I opted for the second best option, to try and have a space for exchange of views on our common destiny and shared future.
This desire is driven by the force of history, the reality of today and imperative of the future. And this historic visit, the first by a president of Kenya to the West Indies offered me a unique opportunity for this sitting with you today.
The possibility of this sitting was hatched at a meeting between Prime Minister Mia Amor Mottley and myself, on the margins of the 73rd United Nations General Assembly in September 2018; then during the last AU summit in February, 2019 I hosted a side event to commemorate 400 years of the abolition of slavery. Three days ago, I had the honour of attending, as a special guest the 57th anniversary of the Jamaican Independence Day. During that celebration, I and Prime Minister Andrew Holnes launched the decade of people of African descent.
Each of these events has strengthened my belief for the need to strengthen the links between CARICOM in general and Africa in general and Kenya, in particular. For me, today presents an opportunity to rekindle our historic heritage of the global African community that subscribed to the Pan-African ethos. These values are not new. Our forefathers were bound by them as they worked for the African cause. The entire of free Africa today, particularly the Sun-Saharan Africa, is forged on this anvil of African solidarity and Pan Africanist.
Dear Brothers and Sisters,
We in Africa consider our Brothers and sisters in the Caribbean as our diaspora or the 6th region of Africa. Within the African Union, the African Diaspora, consists of peoples of African origin living outside the continent; irrespective of their citizenship and nationality; and who are willing to contribute to the development of the continent and the building of the African Union.
Our long and common historical relationship is a crucial and shared heritage that we need to nurture and guard jealously.
I have just come from Jamaica, where we had very constructive engagements with my brother Prime Minister, the Most Honourable Andrew Holness. Our discussions focused on enhancing cooperation in diverse areas between our two regions.
In the last two days, the Hon. Mia Mottley and I have spoken of redefining the course of our history in order to build a shared and prosperous common future that responds to our needs; that enables us to engage directly with each other rather than through others. This will be achieved by us reconnecting – deliberately taking measures that forge us together, enable us maximize our huge potential across many sectors, work guided by our competitive advantages, carry the same messages on issues of mutual concerns at all multilateral fora, and more importantly take decisions at our leadership level that enable our people to engage in productive activities that guarantee them of dignified productive lives.
Excellencies, the task of our time is to serve as a catalyst for rebuilding the global African family, in the service of the development and integration of our countries and people’s. This is an imperative especially in the current and foreseeable world – characterized by narrow nationalisms, growing trade war between the East and the West, the European crisis and the evident marginalization of the development agenda – and with it the African agenda. If we are to shape the evolving global trends we must take charge of the course of history. It seems to me that the moment for that is with us.
Many factors are on our side to help us do this. The warm and cordial relations between our countries are founded on mutual respect and common historical ties. Our countries have similar history and share similar aspirations of achieving sustainable socio-economic development. Today we also confront similar challenges – this means that collectively we can find solutions to these. It is in realisation of this reality that Kenya has pushed a number of global agenda. You will recall that we chaired the negotiations that led to the sustainable development goals (SDGs). Last year we convene the sustainable blue economy conference which reaffirmed my conviction that the blue economy presents alternatives that can augment the achievement of the UN2030. On the issue of climate change, developing countries are bearing the brunt of the adverse effects of the ensuing changes. Many promises have been made to us since Paris, but nothing has been forthcoming. It seems to me, as the most affected regions we must develop a coalition of negotiations in the United Nations Framework Conventions on climate change and promote South-South cooperation to mitigate the impact of climate change.
I invite you to establish diplomatic missions in Kenya and in United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) and UN-Habitat to facilitate and deepen frequent consultations, as well as follow up on environmental and human settlement matters. Your individual Countries diplomatic presence in Nairobi, the global headquarters of United Nations Environmental Programme (UNEP) and UN-Habitat, will enable you to participate directly in addressing environmental challenges that call for collective international action, informed by scientific research and technical innovation.
This process of regular consultative dialogue, and active engagement focused on matters of mutual interest in the international arena, will result in symbiotic benefits on matters peace, security and development.
On the economic front, there are enormous opportunities between our countries to expand our trade relations. I am reminded that intra- ACP trade stands at less than 20 percent. This situation needs to be changed if the promise of our solidarity is to be meaningful to our people.
We need to create the right environment to encourage each region’s private sector to invest and trade at all levels – large, medium and small size enterprises. As government we can support these through enabling connectivity and movement of people, goods and services.
In this regard Prime Minister Mottley and I agreed to commence work towards the conclusion of an air services agreement – there is no reason why that cannot be with other Caribbean countries.
Connectivity will enable the OECS countries to be enjoined with the East African Community whose population is 186 Million, COMESA, with a population of 400 Million, both of which Kenya is member. More importantly, connectivity will create a bridge into the African Continental Free Trade Area (ACFTA) agreement, which came into force on 30 May, 2019 and became operational on 7 July, 2019.
Through Kenya any business from CARICOM into the African market, and gain access to an African population of 1.2 Billion.
We also have large diasporas across the world that can be leveraged. So far, diaspora remittances outweigh most of financial aid for many countries. The diaspora resource can become entry points to the countries of their settlement.
An immediate matter that is of concern to us is the Post-Cotonou negotiations within the framework of the African, Caribbean and Pacific Countries.
We should focus on South-South cooperation and the strengthening of the ACP relationship. Kenya and the Organization of Eastern Caribbean States (OECS) play key roles in the Post-Cotonou negotiations. Let us work, invest, develop and deal with global challenges together as a group. We must strive to speak in one voice. This partnership, if implemented well, will be a force to reckon in the years to come.
I am encouraged by the position adopted by Organization of Eastern Caribbean States in crafting of the negotiations framework for the successor agreement between ACP member states and the European Union. We must speak with one voice on issues that concern us. In this regard I urge that we consult closely and pay close attention to substance of the ongoing post Cotonou negotiations.
The next session of the Summit is scheduled to take place in December this year in Nairobi. I hope to these you all in Nairobi and I very much look forward to fruitful deliberations as we push the ACP agenda forward.
Despite the ACP-EU relations having some positive impact in our regions, we have not yet harnessed its full potential.
In order to address this gap, I propose that trade, investment, tourism and culture cooperation between Caribbean Community and East African Community be crafted through a regional FTA under appropriate WTO rules.
Through this route, our respective countries stand to gain from the benefits of trade and most preferably through a duty free quota free trading mechanism. The most fundamental question we need to ask is, must African, Caribbean and Pacific countries relate through Europe?
I believe that the current discussions to have direct links between Africa Union and Caribbean Community and by extension Organization of Eastern Community States are important and highly welcome, this should also be extended to the Pacific region. There is need for us to engage and share ideas on regular basis as ACP countries.
On UN reforms, it has been 25 years since the “Security Council reforms” item was first placed on the UN General Assembly agenda. All of us are in agreement that the reforms are necessary in order to ensure that the body is representative, responsive, efficient and above all effective. However, long-standing differences on the nature of reforms have held back substantive progress.
Kenya and Africa as a whole, are committed to the UN Reforms and in particular the need to correct without further delay, the historical injustice that some regions continue to endure. We believe our brothers and sisters in the Caribbean and Pacific will continue to be part of the journey that speaks cohesively with one voice in unity of purpose on all aspects of the reform process.
This is crucial if we must have equity and justice in the world we are living in.
Now, my Brothers and Sisters,
Kenyahas presented her candidature for the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) non-permanent seat for the period 2021-2022. Kenya’s candidature is informed by the critical role the UN Security Council plays in the maintenance of international peace and security. Kenya has continued to play a leading role in peace, security and conflict management in the Horn of Africa region and other parts of the world. We, therefore, seek and look forward to the support of the Organization of Eastern Caribbean States for our bid.
Kenya is host to the only United Nations Office in Africa. UN Secretary-General recommended the Office in Nairobi as one of the four proposed centres to host the Global Service Delivery Model (GSDM). This was after Kenya met the threshold on availability of space, qualified personnel, employees’ safety, location and affordable costs. It is my hope that during deliberation on this matter on the 5th Committee of the United Nations General Assembly, OECS countries will support Kenya.
In conclusion, I remain confident that there will be continued efforts to further strengthen the existing relations and explore emerging opportunities to advance the socio-economic development and prosperity for our peoples.
Thank you once again for the warm welcome extended to me and the opportunity to share our thoughts.
I invite you, your Excellencies, to visit Kenya at the time of your convenience.
I THANK YOU. ASANTE SANA.