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Algeria Countering Rabat’s Advances in Nairobi

Algeria Countering Rabat’s Advances in Nairobi
Algeria Countering Rabat’s Advances in Nairobi

Kenya’s Foreign Minister, Musalia Mudavadi, poses for a group photo with his Algerian counterpart, Ahmed Attaf, and his delegation in Nairobi, Kenya, on April 8th. (Photo: Foreign Ministry, Kenya)

Algerian Foreign Minister Ahmed Attaf visited Nairobi, Kenya, on Monday, following Kenya’s recent diplomatic moves with Morocco.

Kenya’s decision to appoint an inaugural ambassador to Morocco and withdraw accreditation of its envoy to Western Sahara has sparked concerns in Algiers.

Attaf’s bilateral visit, where he met Kenya’s counterpart Musalia Mudavadi, is perceived as a strategic move to counter Morocco’s growing influence in Kenya.

This trip “is part of the efforts aimed at strengthening the historic relations of cooperation and friendship between Algeria and Kenya, as well as consolidating the links of consultation and coordination on regional and international developments…,” Algerian foreign office said in a press release.

Last week, KFP reported that the move to drop the Western Sahara envoy is expected to upset Algeria, a primary adversary of Morocco in the Maghreb and a key supporter of Brahim Ghali-led government.

During a joint presser in Nairobi, Kenya’s Mudavadi stated that Algeria has been an esteemed partner to Kenya, fostering collaboration in political, economic, social, and educational sector.

Once again, mirroring their previous support in January when they donated 16,000 metric tonnes of urea fertiliser to Kenya, Algeria extended backing to Kenya’s peace mission in Haiti with a grant of Kes 13,000,000, aimed at advancing peace efforts in the Caribbean country.

“I thank President Abdelmadjid Tebboune and the people of Algeria for supporting Kenya’s peace mission to Haiti with a grant of $100,000…,” said Mudavadi

He further mentioned that they deliberated on methods to bolster trade and reached a consensus to convene a Joint Cooperation Commission in Nairobi come June.

Musalia’s speech was calculated and omitted any reference to tensions in western Sahara, although KFP sources indicate that the issue was extensively discussed during their meeting.

The Algerian top diplomat remarked in his speech, “The visit comes at a time the world is going through profound and accelerating changes against the background of ever-increasing tensions, crisis and conflicts that continue to imply huge challenges both at the international and regional levels.”

“In such times… we firmly believe in the vital importance of maintaining close contact and regular consultations among brothers and strategic partners,” said the Algerian foreign minister.

Kenya, under President William Ruto, has decided against accrediting an ambassador to the Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic, currently exiled in the Algerian camp of Tindouf.

In 2021, the Kenyan envoy to Algeria Peter Katana presented credentials to the leader of the Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic, Brahim Ghali, in Tindouf camp.

This marked the first accreditation of a Kenyan diplomat to Western Sahara.

The decision was based on Nairobi’s prerogative to determine where diplomatic missions are established and which countries those missions will be accredited to.

The Foreign Affairs PS told Kenyan Foreign Policy that “there is no strategic commercial value in accrediting an envoy to Western Sahara”, thus justifying Kenya’s decision.

When questioned about the potential closure of the Western Saharan embassy in Kenya, the senior Kenyan foreign policy official stated, “We won’t interfere with their Nairobi offices.”

This March, Kenya announced its inaugural ambassador to Rabat, Morocco, which asserts control over Western Sahara.

Jessica Muthoni Gakinya was vetted on Monday for her ambassadorial role in Rabat.

This technically means Nairobi is prioritising diplomatic and economic relations with Rabat over maintaining a presence in disputed territories like Western Sahara.

This is also a significant change in policy regarding Kenya’s diplomatic representation in Western Sahara.

Previous governments in Nairobi ignored establishing relations with Morocco and prioritised engaging bilaterally with Algeria, which backs and houses the Polisario Front.

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