Will new President William Ruto reverse his country's policy?

Kenya, a country that has often adopted anti-Morocco positions, has a new president, William Ruto, who contrasts with former head of state Uhuru Kenyatta. With this radical change at the top of the state, will Kenya become the next African country to open a diplomatic representation in the Sahara?

It would seem that there is a strong chance that Kenya and Morocco will grow closer in the coming years since the leadership change in the country. The two states maintain tense relations because of Kenya’s support for the separatist militia of the Polisario.

Nairobi and Rabat share several common interests, the same desire for development and could take their collaboration to very high levels to become African examples in terms of South-South cooperation.

For this, the first step consisting in political unblocking was taken with the election of a new president whose position towards Morocco contrasts with that of his predecessor. Indeed, Uhuru Kenyatta followed the position of South Africa in the Sahara issue, without trying to understand the history, the specificities of the Kingdom and the real cause of the regional dispute created by Algeria.

The new president-elect obtained 50.5% of the vote, against 48.85% for his rival Raila Odinga, a tight result but which would have given in both cases almost the same outcome for Morocco.

The two candidates display positions clearly in favor of the Kingdom in the Sahara issue despite their links with Kenyatta. In the case of the winner of the ballot, he was for 10 years the vice-president of Kenya, for the second, he received the support of the outgoing head of state.

Raila Odinga took a delegation of Kenyan businessmen and politicians to the Crans Montana Forum in Dakhla. in 2015, while William Ruto expressed his position in favor of the autonomy plan proposed by Morocco to definitively settle this issue, considering that it is the “best solution”.

But he had been overtaken by the then president, whose position is close to South Africa, itself modeled on that of Algeria, the country initiating the conflict. Now that William Ruto is no longer dependent on Kenyatta, he will have the opportunity to give new impetus to his country.

It cannot therefore be ruled out that he will take major strategic decisions for Kenya, particularly in the context of his country’s foreign policy, by choosing to side with the makers of history and peace rather than those who encourage separatism and division.

By choosing to break with several years of support for an armed separatist movement hated by the international community, William Ruto, could sign a big blow both diplomatically and in the media. Furthermore, a sovereign decision to support Morocco would in no way affect Kenya’s relations with South Africa as each country has the right to choose its own path and its own partners.

As a reminder, under Uhuru Kenyatta, Kenya largely followed the directives of South African President Cyril Ramaphosa. The two leaders signed a joint statement in November announcing their support for the separatist militia.

During Kenya’s presidency of the Security Council, Algeria could count, through the Ramaphosa-Kenyatta link, on an anti-Morocco voice. Thus, the Kenyan diplomats seized the opportunity to register 3 discussion sessions within the Security Council around the Sahara.

It should be noted that Kenya recognizes the self-proclaimed “Sahrawi republic” not recognized by the United Nations, a creation of the polisario since 2005 under the presidency of the late Emilio Mwai Kibaki (2002-2013). The country even opened a diplomatic representation of the separatist movement in 2014.


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