China pledges to build Kenya’s new headquarters

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The Chinese government has pledged to build Kenya’s new headquarters for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in a move that could cement Beijing’s influence in Nairobi.

The details emerged during a ceremony where the Chinese government donated two VIP buses for use by the Kenyan ministry.

Principal Secretary Macharia Kamau said he was hopeful Beijing’s pledge will be implemented in the next three or four years, setting the stage for a new working station for the country’s diplomats.

We, in this ministry, have special gratitude to the government of the People’s Republic of China for the generous grant towards the construction of a new ministry headquarters,” he said to an audience including Chinese Ambassador to Nairobi, Mr Zhou Pingjian.

“I look forward to working with you to ensure the completion of this important project before the end of your tour of duty in Kenya.”

Mr Zhou arrived in Nairobi last August, having previously worked in Nigeria as Ambassador.

Elaborate details on when the project will start were not immediately made public but it could take the usual formal agreement between the two sides for Beijing to construct the headquarters.

The Foreign Affairs ministry currently occupies the Old Treasury Building next to Harambee House along Harambee Avenue in Nairobi, which is less spacious.

The pledge adds to China’s latest support for technical colleges, granting scholarships to university science students as well as through the National Defence College, part of its wider cultural diplomacy programme.

On Thursday, Mr Zhou donated two buses which are to be used by Ministry of Foreign Affairs staff, calling it a “token of appreciation and friendship”.

This year marks the 50th anniversary of the restoration of the legitimate rights of the People’s Republic of China in the UN and we will never forget that October 1971 — Kenya was firmly with us,” he said, referring to the vote by the UN General Assembly to replace the Republic of China [Taiwan] with the People’s Republic of China as the permanent member of the UN Security Council.

When we organise international meetings, one of the challenges we face is how to move special guests who come and sometimes you want to move them with special transport,” PS Kamau said. 

“These are VVIP buses and we are very happy and very thankful.”

The principal secretary said  there has been mutual gains between China and Kenya since they signed the Strategic Comprehensive Cooperation Partnership Agreement signed in 2016.

“I also note the commendable gains made under the Forum for China-Africa Cooperation (FOCAC) and the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI).”

Under the (BRI), which targets to connect important cities in countries across the world through trade, the Chinese government has sought to establish connecting infrastructure, funding mostly by Beijing.

It was initially only focused on projects like roads, railways and airports to link landlocked countries with those with access to the sea.

However, in recent years, Beijing has also targeted what it calls people-to-people relations supporting government facilities, training staff and sponsoring students to attend university in Beijing.

China already built the headquarters of the African Union in Addis Ababa in Ethiopia but it has had to fight back accusations of opaque dealings in Africa.

Suzan O /ALLAFRICA

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