Playing the long game: the EU’s approach to political change in Kenya

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The EU has long been a major promoter of democratic values. Many African countries count the EU and its member states as their highest donors of foreign aid. Such is the case of Kenya, where the EU has consistently ranked among its highest donors. However, the process of democratic consolidation in Kenya remains fragile. The last electoral process was eventually boycotted by the opposition and the country still grapples with pervasive levels of corruption and worsening of press freedoms. Moreover, diplomatic exchanges between Kenyan authorities in Nairobi and European diplomats seem to indicate that the EU strategy is not necessarily well received by Kenyan authorities. In light of this, this paper will explore the role the EU has played in the process of democratic consolidation in Kenya. The Kenyan example is of particular relevance given the close ties the EU and Kenya have and the influence that Nairobi has in the region as a diplomatic influencer and a security provider. Moreover, the EU faces increasingly successful Chinese competition as an external influencer in the region. As the EU is met with increasing competition in East Africa, the Kenyan case study provides a good example of how the EU’s democratic ambitions for the region clash with other important priorities, such as the need to assure Kenya’s support in regional security initiatives.

Keywords: European Union, China, Geopolitics, Kenya, Democracy, Human Rights

Rodrigo Vaz | College of Europe

Rodrigo Vaz is currently Junior Researcher at ECDPM. He holds a MSc in African Politics from SOAS, University of London and a MA in EU IR and Diplomacy Studies from the College of Europe, where his thesis was distinguished with the ECDPM award on best thesis on EU-Africa relations. Prior to joining ECDPM, Rodrigo has worked at the European External Action Service and the British Institute in Eastern Africa, in Nairobi. He has conducted and assisted fieldwork research in Somaliland, Tanzania and Kenya.