Uhuru’s foreign trips that cost billions hit 100

President Uhuru Kenyatta is received by Sudan Special Envoy Kalonzo Musyoka and Sudanese leaders at Khartoum International airport for the signing of a deal on a transitional government, yesterday.

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President Uhuru Kenyatta’s trip to Barbados saw him cross the 100 mark on official trips to foreign countries eclipsing the 33 trips made by his predecessor Mwai Kibaki during his two terms in office.

Uhuru last week came back from a six-day trip in the Caribbean states of Jamaica and Barbados, just two months after returning from Canada where he had gone to attend the 2019 Global Women Deliver Conference.

And yesterday, Uhuru was in Sudan to witness the formation of a transitional government.

In the trips across the globe, Uhuru has gone to over 45 countries including several trips to Ethiopia, Rwanda, Uganda, Tanzania, South Africa, South Sudan, and the United Kingdom. During the first term alone, President Kenyatta travelled to 86 capital cities with 2015 being the busiest with the president making 26 trips.

Ethiopia, Uganda, Tanzania, UK, China, Rwanda and Somalia were the president’s favoured destinations. He has visited Addis Abba, Ethiopia’s capital 14 times in seven years, followed by nine trips to Kampala, Uganda; eight visits to Kigali, Rwanda including one just last month. He has been to Tanzania eight times as well.

The countries which he has visited only once include Algeria, Botswana, Burundi, Cuba, Djibouti, Germany, Israel, Japan, Jordan, Kuwait, Malta, Morocco, Namibia, Qatar, Russia, Sudan, Togo, Turkey, UAE and Mozambique.

Others which he has visited twice include Angola, Belgium, Canada, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, France, Ghana, India, Italy, Nigeria, the United States and Zambia.

Economist David Ndii said it would not be easy to measure if the trips were beneficial to the country unless an evaluation is done.

“It can be a good thesis for someone studying international relations, you need to know the agreements that made the access to market among other things to be able to gauge,” Ndii said.

Consumer Federation of Kenya (COFEK) Secretary-General Stephen Mutoro said there was a lot of positives including bilateral agreements and fast-tracked trade deals which are in most cases beneficial to the country.

Moderation was also necessary according to Mutoro because the risk was that the president would be missing some of the duties in the country.

“Much as there are several benefits, the cost of the trips are also depressing and burdening the country, we need to have a lean team accompanying the president on his trips,” Mutoro said. “Plus there is a need to ensure there is value for money in the travels.”

Reports by Controller of Budget Agnes Odhiambo indicate the amount spent on travels of the president and government officials had ballooned by Sh6 billion over a three-year period.

Shuttle diplomacy

Travel by government officials pushed the cost of domestic and foreign travels from Sh9.3 billion in 2013-14 to Sh15.4 billion in the 2016-17 financial year, according to a report by the Controller of Budget.

Observers claim that several domestic and foreign trips by VIPs, including their hangers-on, are costing the country billions of shillings cumulatively and continue to burden Kenyans.

The president has already made 15 foreign trips this year.

On Friday, National Treasury and Planning Cabinet Secretary Ukur Yattani in a Gazette Notice indicated that the presidency would receive about Sh9 billion for the financial year 2019-2020, Sh8 billion more than what Kibaki received in his final year.

Foreign Affairs Cabinet Secretary Monica Juma has in the past defended the president’s travels by saying his foreign trips were a boon to the country since Kenya gets trade and investment opportunities and better ties with the rest of the world.

“In the Cuba trip between March 14 and 17, for instance, the president struck a deal for deployment of 100 Cuban medical specialists to Kenya’s public health facilities who are now working in different 47 counties,” Ms Juma said.

Prof Macharia Munene said, in overall, the trips are beneficial to Kenya. “There are certain things an ambassador cannot achieve and the presence of the president opens those doors,” Prof Munene said.

He said every trip Uhuru has made has been followed by an influx of trips by other leaders to Kenya, and that is an indication that his trips make an impact.