Egypt and Kenya are connected by one lifeline: the River Nile and boast a long history of constructive cooperation. They also share the same aspirations and approaches as they both seek to realize development and economic wellbeing for their peoples depending on their big potentials and strategic locations. Egypt is in the middle of the three continents of the old world and overlooks two major seas: the Red Sea and the Mediterranean. Egypt is also home to the Suez Canal, the most important maritime waterway in the world. Egypt also boasts time-honored civilization and enjoys good relations with all African countries. Kenya, on the other hand, has eastern borders on the Pacific, which has made the country an important commercial linking point between Arab and African countries long centuries ago. Kenya’s distinguished geographical location has, therefore, empowered the country to assume a leading role in East Africa region and beyond.
Egyptian-Kenyan Post-2014 Relations
Relations between Egypt and Kenya have seen growing and positive developments since the year 2014, at all levels. Dealing with Kenya, Egypt has taken two tracks: First: bilateral relations and mutual visits to further cooperation with Kenya; Second: water cooperation given that the two countries are of the Nile Basin region.
- On February 18, 2017, President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi paid a visit to Kenya, the first by an Egyptian president in 33 years. During the visit, President El-Sisi discussed in a closed session bilateral talks with Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta; then delegations from both countries conferred on a range of issues. President Kenyatta said the Kenyan people were pleased to see President El-Sisi in Kenya, pointing out that the visit was the peak of the deep-rooted relations binding the two sisterly nations and peoples. The Kenyan President hailed the historical role of Egypt in support of the liberation movement in his country as well as in other African countries. He reiterated that the visit reflected Egypt’s interest in developing relations with African countries and attested to Egypt’s return to play her leading and normal role in the Continent.
- For his part, President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi said Egypt was keen to develop relations with Kenya in all areas and work together to realize mutual interests of the two countries. The President extended, then, an invitation for the Kenyan President to visit Egypt for continued consultations and coordination between the two parties.
- The talks touched on means of furthering economic relations, as the two leaders highlighted the importance of boosting cooperation, given their membership in the COMESA. In this context, the presidents of Egypt and Kenya discussed beefing up volume of trade exchange and reviewed the results of the first meeting of Egyptian-Kenyan Business Council that was held in Nairobi, the capital of Kenya. During the meeting, it was agreed to increase volume of trade exchange to USD 1 billion over two years via implementing a bunch of joint ventures in different areas.
- President El-Sisi and President Kenyatta agreed on the holding of the seventh session of the Joint Committee under the ministers of foreign affairs in 2017 in order to further relations between the two countries in all areas.
- The two presidents also highlighted the importance of enforcing the agreements that were signed between the two countries and drafting new ones, particularly in the field of avoidance of double taxation and protection of investments in order to pave the way before boosting cooperation in economy and investment. President Uhuru Kenyatta hailed the technical assistance provided by Egypt for national cadres of Kenya in different aspects, let alone Egypt’s contributions to a number of developmental projects in the areas of health, agriculture and irrigation.
- In this respect, President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi reiterated Egypt’s keenness on providing, constantly, of technical assistance to the Kenyan side, welcoming Kenya’s request to Egypt to provide medical equipment and health professionals to the Military Hospital being established in Nairobi, the capital city of Kenya. President El-Sisi instructed the dispatching of professional delegation to visit the Hospital and decide on its needs as soon as possible.
- The talks also touched on different regional issues of mutual interest, particularly the developments in Somalia and South Sudan. The presidents of Egypt and Kenya reiterated the necessity of continued coordination between them in order to realize peace and security in the region. President El-Sisi said Egypt would continue consultations with Kenya in order to promote stability and realize security and peace in the African Continent in general, and coordinate different regional and international issues, in particular.
- The presidents of Egypt and Kenya also tackled a number of issues related to the United Nations, as both saw eye-to-eye on much coordination on the UN reform process. The Kenyan President requested Egypt’s support of Nairobi to be home to a number of UN-related organizations.
- Concluding his visit to Nairobi, President El-Sisi visited the UN Center in Africa, and was briefed on the departments of the Center that included some headquarters of international organizations such as the UN Environment Program (UNEP), the UN Human Settlements Program (UN-Habitat) and regional offices of some organizations as the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (the FAO) and the International Labor Organization (the ILO).
Consultations over phone between the two presidents
- On November 24, 2018, President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi talked over phone with Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta. The talks tackled a number of issues of mutual interest in the African Continent, particularly the political developments in the Horn of Africa Region, where efforts aimed at reaching peace in South Sudan topped the agenda in light of the peace agreement between the South Sudanese parties. The talks also touched on backing efforts aimed at realizing stability in Somalia. The two leaders agreed on intensifying joint coordination in the upcoming period with a focus on furthering bilateral cooperation, particularly in trade and investment, let alone exchanging views on latest developments on the regional arena, given that Egypt would be the chair of the African Union in 2019. President El-Sisi renewed the call for his Kenyan opposite number to visit Egypt as soon as possible in order to boost distinguished amicable relations binding the two sisterly nations and peoples.
- On August 15, 2017, President El-Sisi talked over phone with Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta, offering congratulations over re-election of the Kenyan President for a second term. President El-Sisi expressed his sincere wishes to the Kenyan President of success and to the people of Kenya of prosperity and progress. During the phone call, President El-Sisi hailed the distinguished bilateral relations between Egypt and Kenya, reiterating Egypt’s keenness on pushing forward the relations and developing them in different areas.
- For his part, the Kenyan President thanked the Egyptian President on his sincere wishes, hailing the strong bonds between Cairo and Nairobi, looking forward for furthering them at all levels and taking them to broader prospects. The two presidents agreed on continuing consultations and coordination at regional and bilateral levels in order to face the challenges threatening the African Continent.
Distinguished Bilateral Relations
- On March 3, 2019, President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi received Monica Juma, Cabinet Secretary for Foreign Affairs of Kenya and the accompanying delegation that included the Attorney General, the Director of Kenya’s National Intelligence Service, with the attendance of Egypt’s Minister of Foreign Affairs Sameh Shoukry and General Abbas Kamel, Director of Egypt’s General Intelligence Service.
- President El-Sisi reiterated the importance Egypt attached to furthering bilateral relations binding it to its sisterly country of Kenya in all areas, particularly trade exchange and investment. He also said Egypt was keen to hold extensive consultations with Kenya and President Uhuru Kenyatta, in person, during Egypt’s presidency of the African Union, with a focus on priorities of the AU work, be institutional, political or developmental, in order to realize growth and stability and meet the aspirations of the African countries.
- The meeting saw an exchange of views on a bundle of regional issues of mutual interest, including the latest developments in the Horn of Africa region; and means of joining forces by both countries to counter terrorism and extremist thought in Africa, particularly through bolstering joint security and intelligence cooperation; as well as enforcing continental coordination mechanisms under the umbrella of the AU to face this cross-border scourge.
- For her part, the Kenyan Cabinet Secretary for Foreign Affairs hailed the success of the African Union Summit held in Addis Ababa February 2019 under President El-Sisi, pointing out that the success of the Summit reflected the continued and time-honored role of Egypt in the African Union. She added that African countries entrusted Egypt, therefore, with leading the African joint action in 2019 in order to further development in the African Continent, maintain peace and security and address different issues. The Minister also reiterated that there would be broader prospects for developing bilateral relations and furthering joint cooperation between the two countries at both public and official levels.
- On November 16, 2016, President El-Sisi received Vice-President of Kenya William Ruto with the attendance of Kenya’s Cabinet Secretary for Tourism. The Kenyan Vice-President conveyed the greetings of President Uhuru Kenyatta to President El-Sisi and handed him a message from the Kenyan President on bolstering bilateral relations and intensifying coordination and consultations between the two countries.
- At the meeting, the Kenyan Vice-President hailed the technical assistance provided by Egypt to Kenya in the field of human cadres’ training in a number of sectors, reiterating the bonds of cooperation and fraternity binding the two nations. He also referred to the need of furthering cooperation between the African countries in different areas. He also commended Egypt’s hosting of the three economic blocs summit in 2015 and the country’s keenness on developing African joint trade and economic cooperation.
- For his part, President El-Sisi welcomed the Kenyan Vice-President, reiterating the close relations binding Egypt and Kenya at all levels. He also conveyed his greetings to the Kenyan President and pointed out Egypt’s keenness on furthering cooperation with all African countries in all areas, in general, and the Nile Basin countries, in particular. The President also reiterated the need of promoting communication and cooperation between the African countries and paying much attention to infrastructure projects to realize mutual interests. President El-Sisi also highlighted the need of making the utmost use of trade agreements between Egypt and Kenya and promoting trade (that hit USD 568 million in 2016) to the level of the distinguished political relations between them.
- The President said there would be broader prospects for furthering cooperation between the two countries in all sectors, particularly tourism and agriculture given the huge potentials of the two nations in this respect. He also said Egypt would continue to provide technical assistance and support to Kenya in all areas.
- The meeting also touched on a number of issues related to furthering cooperation between the two countries and means of promoting coordination and consultations between them on a number of African issues and dossiers, particularly development in the African Continent in order to help African countries carry out the African Union Agenda 2063.
- On November 15, 2015, a delegation led by MP Ndung’u Gethenji drawn from the Defense and Foreign Relations Committee at the National Assembly of Kenya paid a visit to Egypt. President El-Sisi received the delegation and hailed, during the meeting, the development of bilateral relations between Egypt and Kenya in light of the fact that it is Egypt’s number one trade partner within the COMESA. The President cited the need of developing infrastructure and means of transportation linking the two countries given the would-be role of the step in furthering economic cooperation and trade exchange.
- On January 11, 2015, Minister of Foreign Affairs Sameh Shoukry visited Kenya to preside over the Sixth Session of the Joint Committee between Egypt and Kenya. During the visit, Shoukry said Egypt attached great importance to developing bilateral relations with Kenya in all areas in order to realize the mutual interests of the peoples of both countries. He also met with then Cabinet Secretary for Foreign Affairs Amina Mohamed and discussed economic, trade and political relations and means of developing them, with a special focus on trade and investment areas in favor of the two nations. The Kenyan Minister said her country would look forward to furthering ties with Egypt in such areas as security cooperation, human resource development and communications. She also added that her country would do its best to utilize the Egyptian expertise and get more scholarships for Kenyan trainees, making a reference to the existing cooperation between the two countries within the COMESA.
- For his part, the Egyptian Foreign Minister said the Egyptian Agency of Partnership for Development would provide all forms of support to brothers in Kenya, particularly in the areas of capacity-building, countering terrorism, technical assistance in security and training. He also pointed out to the participation of 50 Egyptian businesspeople in the trade mission accompanying the Egyptian delegation and the holding of the Egyptian-Kenyan Business Council with the participation of businesspeople from both countries.
Egypt has emphasized in all international forums the need of combating terrorism funding and drying up the sources of terrorist recruitment, arming, supporting and providing political cover for. Egypt has called for the support of sisterly African countries, which are at war on terrorism in order to exterminate it, in addition to showing solidarity with peoples who have lost civilians and law enforcement forces in the fight against terrorism. The country has also uttered the need of adopting a comprehensive approach in the fight on terrorism that includes effective solution of all the root causes of terrorism and extremist thought, let alone the need of realizing economic and social development.
Security cooperation between Egypt and Kenya in the fight on terrorism and extremism remains one of the most important aspects of cooperation between the two nations. In reality, Egypt and Kenya face similar challenges given that they have sustained terrorist attacks on military and civilian targets by extremist terrorist organizations, mostly cross-border ones that are fueled by the same extremist thought and misinterpretation of Islam. Kenya has sustained terror attacks that are launched between time and another by extremist groups.
During talks with President Uhuru Kenyatta in February 2017, President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi reiterated the importance of enforcing security cooperation between the two countries given their joint war on terrorism and the challenges they both face over the growing danger posed by terrorist and extremist groups. In this context, President El-Sisi has stressed the important role of Al-Azhar in disseminating the correct teachings of Islam and confronting extremist thought. He also hailed the request by Kenyan President Kenyatta on increasing the number of Kenyan preachers for training at Al-Azhar.
- On June 5, 2015, a high-level delegation drawn from Kenya’s police led by the advisor of the Kenyan Cabinet Secretary for Home Affairs paid a visit to Egypt. The delegation was received by Mohamed Al-Hamzawi, Deputy Assistant to the Minister of Foreign Affairs on Nile Basin Countries Affairs. The two parties discussed means of furthering cooperation between the two countries in counter-terrorism efforts and other security related issues.
- In December 2018, Egypt took part in Continental Peace and Security Conference held in Nairobi. Ambassador Osama Abdel Khalek, Egypt’s Permanent Representative to the African Union and Ambassador in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, delivered Egypt’s speech at the Conference. Attendants were Kenyan Cabinet Secretary for Foreign Affairs Monica Juma, AU Peace and Security Council Commissioner Smail Chergui and then Director-General of the United Nations Office at Nairobi (UNON) Hanna S. Tetteh.
- In February 2019, Raychelle Omamo, Kenyan Cabinet Secretary for Defense, uttered, in her meeting with Egypt’s Ambassador in Nairobi Khaled Al-Abiad, interest in boosting counter-terrorism cooperation with Egypt, given that it remained on the list of challenges facing Kenya. She also hailed the address delivered by President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi while he was being handed over the presidency of the African Union in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia in which he stressed the need for joining forces by regional powers in order to uproot terrorism in Africa.
- Within joint cooperation between Egypt and Kenya in countering terrorism, Ambassador Hamdi Louza, Deputy to the Minister of Foreign Affairs on African Affairs, headed to Nairobi to partake in the African Regional High-Level Conference on Counter- Terrorism and Prevention of Violent Extremism Conducive to Terrorism, held July 10-11, 2019.
Statements by Egypt’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs on terrorist attacks hitting Kenya
Egypt has sided with Kenya and repeatedly denounced terrorist attacks there. Egypt has also called for promoting international efforts to counter terrorism that remains a joint challenge before the two countries at the time being.
Examples of official positions taken by Egypt showing solidarity with Kenya in the face of terrorism can be cited as follows:
- On September 22, 2013, Egypt’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs condemned, in the strongest terms, the terrorist attack that took place at a shopping mall in Nairobi, leaving 59 people dead.
- Egypt also denounced the heinous terrorist attack that took place near to the city of Mandera, northeastern Kenya that left 36 people dead. Egypt confirmed, in a statement issued by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs on December 2, 2014, that terrorism remained a global phenomenon, and that joining forces is a must to counter it, particularly it targeted security, stability and development everywhere.
- In April 2015, the Spokesperson of the Egyptian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, condemned, in the strongest terms, the terrorist attack carried out by the terrorist group of al-Shabab on the Kenyan Garissa University College that left 150 students dead and scores injured. The Spokesperson offered condolences to the bereaved families of the victims, wishing the injured a speedy recovery. The Spokesperson also renewed Egypt’s call for joining forces by the international community to counter terrorism which seeks destabilization everywhere in the world. He also reiterated Egypt’s public and official stance in support of Kenya in the face of terrorism.
- In January 2019, extremists attacked DusitD2 complex in Nairobi, which left 21 people dead. The terrorist group of al-Shabab claimed responsibility. Egypt denounced, in the strongest terms, the attack, reiterating the need for joining forces by the international community to counter terrorism and uproot it.
- On June 17, 2019, Egypt issued a strongly worded statement in which the country denounced the terrorist attack on bus carrying Kenyan soldiers near the Kenyan-Somali borders, which left 10 soldiers dead. Egypt offered condolences to the bereaved families of the victims and reiterated its position in support of the Kenyan people and government in the face of terrorism. Egypt has also renewed the call for joining forces by the international community to counter this heinous phenomenon that targets security and stability everywhere in the world.
The position of Al-Azhar on terrorism in Kenya
As extremist thought is on the rise and since Kenya has sustained different terrorist attacks and given that the fact that Kenya and Egypt agree on the need of countering terrorism via uprooting the very causes of extremist thought, Al-Azhar plays a leading role in that respect. Al-Azhar has provided different assistance to Kenya in the area of teaching the Arabic Language and disseminating the moderate teachings of Islam whether through its envoys there or through Al-Azhar institutes.
- On April 26, 2018, the Kenyan city of Malindi hosted the meetings of the fourth day of the Peace Convoy dispatched by the Muslim Council of Elders into Kenya. The Convoy took part in the interfaith dialogue held by the Supreme Council of Kenya Muslims (SUPKEM) in the presence of representatives of Kenyan religious sects and the representative of the Kenyan government on interfaith dialogue. During the session, members of the Peace Convoy briefed the participants on Al-Azhar as a religious and educational institution, and on the Muslim Council of Elders as an institution that gathered prominent Muslim clerics, as well as on the Peace Convoys that toured the world to spread the culture of dialogue and consolidate the pillars of world peace.
- On November 2, 2018, Kenya’s Generation of Peace organized, in collaboration with the Al-Azhar Mission stationed in Kenya, a seminar for preachers and imams entitled “Role of Imams and Preachers in Promoting Societal Peace”.
- On February 27, 2018, Grand Imam of Al-Azhar Ahmed el-Tayyib (PhD) received Sheikh Yusuf Nzibo (PhD), Chairperson of the Supreme Council of Kenya Muslims (SUPKEM). During the meeting, Dr. el-Tayyib said Al-Azhar would promote its support for Muslims in Kenya via increasing the number of scholarships provided to Kenyan students to study at Al-Azhar. He also said Al-Azhar would continue training programs for Kenyan imams in order to face current issues and problems. For his part, Dr. Nzibo thanked the Grand Imam of Al-Azhar for the support provided to the Kenyan Muslims in educational and religious areas. He confirmed that Al-Azhar would remain the voice of Muslims and their scientific Mecca given the role it played in maintaining societal stability in Africa for long decades. It also is the only refuge protecting African peoples against the danger of extremist thought.
- On October 24, 2016, Grand Imam of Al-Azhar Ahmed el-Tayyib (PhD) received a Kenyan delegation led by Sheikh Ahmed Badawi, then Chairperson of the Supreme Council of Kenya Muslims. Dr. el-Tayyeb said Al-Azhar would continue to confront extremist ideology that tarnished the image of Islam and Muslims. He has also stressed that Islam is in no way linked to that brutal image propagandized about it. He expressed Al-Azhar’s willingness to promote support to the Muslims in Kenya via increasing the number of scholarships provided to Kenyan students, in addition to training of Kenyan imams on facing current problems and issues.