Nairobi Moves to Forestall Row with Kigali over ‘Autocracy’ Remark

Kenya's Foreign PS Sing'oei Korir

NAIROBI – Kenya’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs has moved to forestall a diplomatic row with Kigali following remarks by Roads and Infrastructure Minister Kipchumba Murkomen, who termed Rwanda’s government as autocratic. 

CS Murkomen, a close ally to President William Ruto, on Monday during an interview with Citizen TV said unlike Kenya, a democracy, Rwanda is an autocracy and whatever the President, [ Paul Kagame] says is the law.

“For every decision you make in this country [Kenya] you must go through a proposal then Parliament, then public participation. Then after you go through all the processes you go through the court and that is our country. You cannot compare the political situation in Rwanda and the size of the country with our country and our democracy. That is why we have to employ technology to deal with corruption and cartelism,” Murkomen said, responding to a question on Rwanda’s management of transport sector. 

The remarks immediately caused a storm on social media, with various observers saying his “unprovoked attack” on President Kagame and Rwanda was uncalled for and unnecessary. 

Among those who reacted were constitutional lawyer and political commentator Ahmednasir Abdullahi, Senior Counsel. 

“Dr @SingoeiAKorir , you need to URGENTLY organise workshops for government officials and educate them on basic tenets on the comity of nations. CS @kipmurkomen can’t attack a sovereign friendly state without provocation and disparage President @PaulKagame just like that. This is embarrassing.  

“CSs must be taken through a crash course, teaching them the responsibilities that come with their new constitutional offices! Very soon, Kenya will be a pariah state in the hood!” Ahmednasir said on X. 

In his clarification. Foreign Affairs Principal Secretary Dr Korir, the second ranking at the Ministry, said each country within the EAC has a unique democratic praxis suited to their contexts.  

“We celebrate this diversity of expressions and institutional arrangements. Rwanda is a key brotherly Nation and the Head of State of Rwanda, H.E. Paul Kagame, is an iconic leader whose bold leadership is admired at home and abroad,” Korir said on X. 

Mohamed Hersi, a veteran hotelier in Kenya, said it is wrong for a CS in Kenya to say “such stuff about a friendly neighboring country”. 

But reacting to the criticism, CS Murkomen on Tuesday said he expressed his admiration for Rwanda’s style of leadership, which has made it possible for them to build good infrastructure, including a new airport and enforce discipline and order on their roads.  

“It’s not just Rwanda, countries like UAE, Morocco, Saudi Arabia among others have a style of leadership that has delivered great success to their people because their leaders have the power to make firm decisions . Our style of leadership has many positives but it’s too bureaucratic and takes years to make a very simple decision which ends up being very costly for our people,” Murkomen said on X. 

PS Korir has since taking office been forced to issue clarifications on previous pronouncements that have been undiplomatic or potentially bearing diplomatic consequences. 

Case in point, on December 5, Korir was forced to clarify a statement issued by Senate Speaker Amason Kingi after he met Somaliland Representative in Kenya Ambassador Mohamed Ahmed Mohamoud, whom in the statement after the meeting he wrongly referred as “the Somaliland Ambassador to Kenya”.   

Kingi said they “explored new avenues for collaboration and partnerships between “our governments and their various institutions, including Parliaments of the two countries”.   

Kenya officially considers Somalia one entity with federal regions, including Somaliland, under autonomous administrations.   

PS Korir responded, “Respectful Reminder that:1. Foreign policy of the Republic is a function of National Government. 2. Parliament’s role in foreign policy is oversight on the exercise of foreign relations by national government.    

“3. It is Kenya’s established and unchanging foreign policy, consistent with African Union, that only the Federal Republic of Somalia is the recognised State entity. 4. Somaliland, a region within the Federal Republic of Somalia, has a liaison office for commercial purposes in Nairobi. This office is not an embassy.”   

Earlier, on February 24, Korir was once again forced to issued clarification remarks by then Trade Minister Moses Kuria, who called for the shutdown of China Square mall, saying no lawful investment actor, whatever their nationality, should be apprehensive about discrimination.     

In May, Kuria called for the military invasion of Sudan to end the ongoing war.   

“The community of nations should militarily invade any country where armies overthrow government. Appeasement does not pay off. Military juntas do not become democrats simply because of the false principle of non-interference. The AU (African Union) can marshal a strong enough army to bomb Khartoum to smithereens,” he said on X. 

Korir responded saying the tweet did not reflect Kenya’s position.  “We continue to work with all parties towards a peaceful resolution of the Sudan crisis,” he said. 


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