Kenyan President William Ruto bid farewell to Serbian Ambassador to Kenya, Dragan Zupanjevac, during a formal meeting at State House Nairobi on Thursday. The event marked the end of the envoy’s six-year tour of duty in Kenya.
During the farewell, President Ruto acknowledged the importance of Kenya’s trade and investment relations with Serbia. He expressed Kenya’s keen interest in strengthening and expanding these ties, particularly in sectors such as agriculture, pharmaceutical technology, and information and communications technology (ICT).
The goal, Ruto says, is to foster economic growth that empowers the citizens of both nations.
However, behind the diplomatic pleasantries, there’s a hint of discord between Kenya and Belgrade. Kenya’s recent public statements regarding its intention to move toward recognizing Kosovo, a breakaway state in southeastern Europe, as an independent country have irritated Serbia.
The move towards recognizing the sovereignty of Kosovo reflects President Ruto’s longstanding connection with Pristina, which dates back to his tenure as Deputy President.
Kenya has expressed its readiness to recognize Kosovo.
Foreign Minister Alfred Mutua made this announcement during a press briefing in Nairobi this week, confirming that discussions are underway for Kenya to fully recognize the sovereignty of the small Balkan country.
This announcement comes on the heels of President William Ruto’s meeting with Kosovan leader Vjosa Osmani during the recent United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) in New York.
Kenya’s move toward recognizing Kosovo gained momentum earlier this year when it officially recognized Kosovan passports in March. While this development was not widely publicized at the time, it marked a pivotal step in formalizing diplomatic ties between Kenya and the Balkan nation.
Minister Mutua confirmed the upcoming visit by Kosovo’s Osmani to discuss recognition.
During the UNGA in New York, President Ruto and President Osmani engaged in a cordial meeting, exchanging pleasantries and expressing their shared commitment to resolving the Kosovo-Serbia conflict.
President Osmani conveyed her gratitude to the Kenyan leader for agreeing to meet her, citing an earlier encounter in London. President Ruto welcomed her warmly and expressed his optimism about finding a mutually beneficial solution for both Kosovo and Serbia.
Kenya’s steadfast support for this diplomatic effort was reiterated during this meeting.
While these diplomatic moves have raised eyebrows in Belgrade, with Serbian officials expressing their discontent, President Ruto seems to be signaling a subtle shift in Kenya’s policy towards Kosovo.
During his stay in New York, President Ruto also met with Kosovo’s former President and Foreign Minister, Behgjet Pacolli. According to Pacolli, President Ruto played a pivotal role in helping him gain access to high-level delegations and heads of state from various countries.
This access was instrumental in Pacolli’s efforts to garner international recognition for Kosovo.
Diplomatic sources, speaking confidentially to Kenyan Foreign Policy, revealed that Pacolli utilized Kenya’s United Nations Mission offices in New York during some of his meetings with foreign delegations. The billionaire Kosovan politician confirmed this information on his official Facebook page.
This recent turn of events suggests that Kenya is on the path to recognizing Kosovo as a sovereign state.
Kosovo declared independence 15 years ago from Serbia.
Serbia does not recognize Kosovo’s statehood. Neither does Russia, China, and five European Union countries – Spain, Slovakia, Cyprus, Romania, and Greece, which have halted their path to EU membership.
Russia, an ally of Serbia, has vetoed Kosovo’s membership in the United Nations.
Where is Kosovo?
Kosovo is a country in southeastern Europe bordered by Albania, North Macedonia, Montenegro, and Serbia. It has a population of 1.9 million people, with ethnic Albanians accounting for 93% of the population and Serbs accounting for around 6%.
The remainder is Turks, Bosniaks, Roma, and Goranis, a Slavic Muslim ethnic minority.
Following the disintegration of Yugoslavia, Kosovo sought its independence. Serbia, on the other hand, cracked down on ethnic Albanians seeking independence, prompting a NATO intervention against Serbia in 1999. Serbian forces subsequently withdrew from Kosovo.
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