Historical Background of Egypt-Kenya Relations
Monday, August 26, 2019
Historical Background of Egypt-Kenya Relations

Egypt and Kenya are bound by distinguished time-honored relations that date back to the sixties of the 20th Century when Egypt supported the African liberation movements in a bid to assist African nations rid of the European occupation. At that time, Egypt opened doors before national African leaders and provided them with all forms of support to attain the goal of liberation and independence.  

  • The relations between Egypt and Kenya started prior to Kenya’s independence when Egypt, under late President Gamal Abdel Nasser, supported the “Mau Mau” Uprising of Kenya via an intensified diplomatic and media campaign against the British occupation of Kenya. Egypt, therefore, established a radio station to support the Kenyan people in their struggle for liberation. The “Voice of Africa” was the first ever Kiswahili-based radio station that was broadcast from an African nation “Egypt” to support Kenya get independence.
  • Egypt made the “Mau Mau Uprising” an African cause and sought to secure the release of Kenyan leader Jomo Kenyatta who was detained by authorities of the British occupation in 1961. Cairo was the first capital to host Kenyan liberation fighters, providing them with all possible aid to activate their movement inside Kenya. Those national leaders included: Oginga Odinga, Tom Mboya, James Gichuru, Joseph Murumbi, among others, as well as members of the Kenya African National Union (KANU) and the Kenya African Democratic Union (KADU) as both parties opened offices in Cairo during that time. Egypt’s efforts in support of the Kenyan liberation march resulted in Kenya’s independence in 1963.    
  • In 1964, Kenya became a republic and began diplomatic ties with Egypt, opening an embassy in Cairo. Receiving credentials of the first ambassador of Kenya to Egypt, late President Nasser showed admiration of the struggle of the people of Kenya for freedom and independence led by Jomo Kenyatta who became the first president of the country. Late President Nasser expressed Egypt’s willingness to fully cooperate with Kenya and other African countries to promote Africa’s power and develop the Continent’s resources, contributing to boosting its unity.  
  • In 1964, Egypt hosted the Second Conference of the now-defunct Organization of African Unity, and on the sidelines of the Conference, President Gamal Abdel Nasser reiterated Egypt’s willingness to promote military cooperation with Kenya. Late President Jomo Kenyatta said he would like to rid of the British forces stationed in Kenya, asking for Egypt’s assistance towards building the national army of Kenya. In truth, President Nasser assigned then Minister of Information Mohamed Fayek to travel to Nairobi, the Kenyan capital, and during the visit, an agreement was reached on training of parachute battalion and dispatching Egyptian experts into Kenya for training of Kenyan army, after ridding of the English officers, in addition to dispatching Kenyan officers for training in Egypt.
  • In 1967, Egypt and Kenya co-implemented the Hydromet Project which aimed to study the metrology and water situation of the Nile Equatorial Lakes Basin, design plans for water resources’ development, and study the Nile water balance. In accordance with the project, stations were established in major lakes, including Lake Victoria, Lake Albert, and Lake Kyoga. The project was funded by donor countries, the United Nations Development Program (UNDP) and the World Meteorological Organization (WMO).
  • Kenya was among the African countries that severed ties with Israel in wake of the 1973 October War; in November 1973, the Executive Ministerial Council of the now-defunct Organization of African Unity, passed a decision on severing ties with Israel, calling on it to withdraw from the occupied territories and grant the Palestinian people the right to self-determination.  
  • In February 1984, Daniel Arap Moi, then President of Kenya, embarked on a tour to Africa in which he visited Zaire (now the Democratic Republic of the Congo), Somalia and Tanzania and stated that Egypt would be a bridge between Arab countries and African peoples and play the role of a possible mediator in solving African conflicts.
  • In 1998, Egypt joined the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (the COMESA). Kenya signed the agreement on joining the COMESA in 1994 during the holding of the Ministerial Conference in Lilongwe, Malawi. Geopolitically speaking, the COMESA is of a special importance to Egypt, given that the bloc boasts a distinguished geographical location, being bordered by the Arab World, the Horn of Africa Region, and the Nile Basin Region; in other words, it is like a belt encompassing Egypt.    


Growing Bilateral Relations

  • Egypt and Kenya share a continued cooperation at all levels and the relations between the two sisterly peoples have been upheld in the times of crises and in the face of natural disasters like drought and flood, as Egypt has provided technical, medical and food assistance to the people of Kenya.
  • On judicial cooperation and consultations on legislative systems, Chief Justice of Kenya Johnson Gicheru paid a visit to Egypt from 1-3 December 2008 to learn of the work of the Ministry of Justice of Egypt and the legislative system already in place there. During the visit, he held meetings with his opposite numbers at the Ministry.
  • Kenneth Marende, then Speaker of the National Assembly of Kenya paid a visit to Egypt from 17-18 June 2009 to attend the Second Session of the Parliamentary Forum of Nile Basin Countries.
  • Kalonzo Musyoka, then Vice-President of Kenya, presided over Kenya’s delegation that participated in the Non-Aligned Movement Summit held mid July in Sharm El-Sheikh, Egypt in 2009. On the sidelines of the Summit, he met with the then Egyptian Minister of Foreign Affairs, where Musyoka hailed the strength of bilateral relations between the two countries. He reiterated Kenya’s resolve to push forward these relations, particularly on furthering volume of trade exchange between the two countries.
  • Moses Wetangula, then Cabinet Secretary for Foreign Affairs of Kenya, led a delegation to Egypt to participate in the Fourth Ministerial Meeting of Forum on China-Africa Cooperation hosted in Sharm El-Sheikh, November 8-9, 2009. Wetangula met on the sidelines of the Forum with the then Egyptian Minister of Foreign Affairs and they discussed a number of issues of mutual interest, most importantly cooperation over water resources’ development in Kenya and the possibility of Egypt’s assistance to Kenya to counter desertification, shortage of rainwater and rehabilitation of rain forests.  
  • In May 2010, Raila Odinga, then Prime Minister of Kenya, paid a visit to Egypt and met with Egyptian officials, where he reiterated that “Kenya would in no way harm Egypt’s water interests.”
  • In April 2011, Richard Onyonka, Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs of Kenya, visited Cairo for political consultations with a number of Egyptian officials.