Kenya stands to lose some Ksh10bn ($100m) in exports to Russia as a result of sanctions imposed on Moscow because of its war against Ukraine but is right to support them, says presidential candidate Raila Odinga.
Speaking at Chatham House in London, Odinga said that exports of tobacco, coffee, tea, spices, live trees, plants, bulbs, roots, cut flowers, edible fruits, nuts and melons to both Russia and Ukraine are under threat as a result of the three-week old conflict.
“In Kenya we stand to lose about Ksh10bn worth of exports to Russia as a result of sanctions, that’s about $100m… in 2020 we imported wheat, maize and fertilisers worth about $406m from Russia. This might be equally adversely affected with the sanctions and disruptions of war at a time our economy can hardly afford such a stress,” he said.
Odinga was scathing of what he called a “senseless conflict” and fulsome in his support of the international sanctions regime to isolate the Russian economy.
“Kenya’s position at the United Nations in full support of the immediate cessation of hostility by Russia and its search for common peace has found widespread international support. Even though the sanctions imposed on Russia will harm the economic interests of Kenya and Africa, they are actions that I support. Rather than beat the drums of war let us ring the bells of peace.”
Odinga, who will face deputy president William Ruto in August’s election, and has been endorsed by incumbent and long-term rival Uhuru Kenyatta, stuck close to the government’s response to the crisis.
He echoed the words of Kenya’s permanent representative to the United Nations Martin Kimani, who gave a speech on 21 February decrying Russia’s invasion that harked back to Africa’s colonial history, arguing that “we must complete our recovery from the embers of dead empires in a way that does not plunge us back to new forms of domination and oppression”.
“Wars of aggressions against sovereign states violate the cardinal principles of sovereignty and the inviolability of borders of a state. In Africa we long realised that reopening grievances over colonial borders would upend us all. It’s a Pandora’s Box that must never be touched,” Odinga said.
Odinga called for renewed rounds of diplomacy at the United Nations Security Council, where Kenya is currently serving as a non-permanent member.
“The Ukraine crisis, like Covid-19, is a global phenomenon. The UN needs to urgently take leadership in finding a solution through diplomacy and dialogue, already initiated in recent discussions in the Security Council, and Kenya has taken a very firm stand on this issue.”