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May boosts graft war, assures market access after Brexit

Seth Onyango @SethManex

Kenya has secured far-reaching agreements with Britain top being the repatriation of stolen assets stashed in the United Kingdom and better economic cooperation between the two countries.

The pacts were sealed yesterday during bilateral talks between President Uhuru Kenyatta and British Premier Theresa May who has been on a charm offensive in Africa to deepen UK’s partnerships after Brexit.

It is, however, Uhuru’s war on graft that received a major boost after the two leaders signed a deal to ensure wealth acquired from proceeds of corruption and crime are repatriated to Kenya.

Although the amount to be recovered was not disclosed, May and Uhuru exuded confidence the recovery of stolen assets will deal a significant blow to merchants of corruption.

“We need to make it painfully unrewarding, and expensive to get into corruption,” declared the President, sentiments that were echoed by May.

“We welcome your commitment to fight this vice from your country and we signed an agreement to ensure that any proceeds of corruption from Kenya that end up in the UK would be given back to the Kenyan people and spent for their benefit,” she said.

The new deal between Nairobi and London comes three months after Kenya inked a similar agreement with Switzerland to repatriate more than Sh90 billion held in Swiss accounts.

According to the 2013 Kroll report commissioned by the President Mwai Kibaki, over Sh200 billion stolen from Kenya is stashed in tax havens, with the figure likely to be higher today.

Uhuru is hoping the repatriated funds will plug the budget deficit and help fund his Big Four agenda.

“Fighting corruption is an important aspect of my legacy programme together with the unity of the country and the attainment of our Big Four cantered on investment in housing, manufacturing, food security, and universal health,” said the Head of State.

May was impressed with the Big Four economic blueprint asserting that the UK will align its expertise, investment and aid along that vision.

May noted that the UK was the largest foreign investor in Kenya and announced it was determined to be G7’s number one investor in Africa by 2022. She was accompanied to Kenya by a delegation of 29 business executives who could be a source of the much-needed foreign direct investment in the Big Four projects.

May announced Kenya will not be hurt by UK exit (known as Brexit) from the European Union, sentiments that were echoed by President Uhuru.

“As Britain prepares to leave the European Union, we are committed to a smooth transition that ensures continuity in our trade relations so that Kenya continues to enjoy the duty free, quota free access to the UK market,” she said.

Uhuru said he believed Brexit would have a neutral impact on Kenya, just months before the transition.

“Brexit is not going to dent our ability to further strengthen and deepen trade and investment between two countries. I don’t see Brexit as meaning anything detrimental to trade ties we already have.”

“We have also discussed the UK and broader Commonwealth issues and we have indicated that Kenya will be pressing forward on the basis of a fair market arrangement with a view of mutual win-win arrangements in the Commonwealth.”

May’s visit to Kenya marked the first by a UK prime minister since Margaret Thatcher in 1988 and had been primed to deepen trade relations between the two nations.

Her visit to Kenya came amid growing desperation by Britain to establish new socio-economic cooperation with other nations following its unprecedented exit from the EU.

May is visiting Africa for the first time since she became prime minister in 2016, the same year of Brexit process started

UK is particularly keen to strengthen ties with Africa at a time the continent is attracting a lot of attention from global powers, especially China.

On security, the UK prime minister announced that Britain would soon unveil a package for African Union Mission to Somalia (AMISOM), the peacekeeping team that comprises Kenyan soldiers maintaining peace in the war-torn country.

The two leaders had signed a new combat agreement to boost military cooperation between both nations, including joint military training.

May also supported the Building Bridges initiative between President Uhuruand Opposition leader Raila Odinga.

She was, however, non-committal over UK’s support in Kenya’s bid for a two-year non-permanent membership in the United Nations Security Council. Deputy President William Ruto and Foreign Affairs Cabinet Secretary Monica Juma were among members of the Cabinet who joined Uhuru in bilateral talks.

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