The Journal of Modern African Studies


An Analysis of Kenyan Foreign Policy

John Howell*

In foreign affairs, Kenya presents various faces to the international community. In global terms external policy has been markedly radical in nature and characterised by a strong sense of morality and idealism. Rarely does a major Kenyan foreign policy statement fail to contain some allusion to the inequalities of the present international order or some reassertion of both the desirability and the attainability of a peaceful and just international community of nations. In East African affairs, however, Kenya's policy has often been governed by rather more conservative and legitimist thinking, notably where any radical departure from the status quo is contemplated. It would appear that where foreign policy issues touch directly on primary Kenyan interests—say, national security, national development—the overt radicalism of Kenya's broad international policy is subject to considerable restraint. This ambivalence in Kenya's foreign relations can probably be best explained by examining separately the basically domestic pressures towards a broadly radical policy internationally and towards a more cautious conservatism within East Africa. One further aspect of Kenya's foreign relations is in the field of inter-African affairs, where tentatively one may suggest that Kenya has come to play the role of a prestigious neutral between two amorphous, but often distinct, groupings of what have been termed ‘radical’ and ‘moderate’ states.1 Here, foreign policy is far less a product of domestic pressures, and contingencies of history and factors of personality reassert their importance in foreign policy analysis.


* Lecturer in International Relations, University of Khartoum.