Kenya’s Foreign Relations under the 2010 Constitution

It is well settled among foreign policy analysts that domestic politics does affect foreign relations. Within the domestic sphere there is the constitution that serves both as a political document as well as a legal one. So what role, if any, does it play in Kenya’s foreign relations?

There are those that are more obvious than others such as ratifications of international instruments. In the past, international instruments such as treaties and conventions needed to be domesticated in order to apply as part of our municipal law. It appears that this has changed by dint of article 2(6) of the constitution. It states that any treaty/convention that has been ratified by Kenya forms part of our law. For international lawyers, one can argue that Kenya has moved from being a dualist state into a monist one.

This also means that the Kenyan government must think twice on the treaties/conventions that it ratifies. It must at all times be brought in line with our national interests or in the furtherance of our national interests. Parliament must also play a major role since the constitution has given the executive law making powers which is the preserve of the legislature. The Legislature must engage fully in matters of foreign relations in order to judiciously debate on pertinent treaties and conventions that Kenya would be ratifying.

War as a foreign policy instrument is restricted to the approval of parliament (article 95[6]). The executive no longer has the power to unilaterally engage in war. This complicates matters for the executive as it has to convince parliament that a war that Kenya would want to be involved in is in her interests which could be a tough job.

Further, parliament is involved in the selection process of the country’s top foreign affairs officer. Parliament must vet presidential nominees for the positions of cabinet secretaries (article 152 [1] [2]) who must not be members of parliament (article 152 [1] [3]). It also has the power to sack the same secretaries for gross misconduct, gross violations of the constitution and suspicion of having committed a crime under municipal or international law (see article 152 for details).

Government officials on official visits abroad are not allowed to keep any gifts that they are given. Article 76 (1) requires them to submit the gifts to the state. This will prevent government officials from getting compromised especially in high stakes international economic negotiations.

A major inclusion in the constitution is the National Security Council under article 240. Its task is to integrate domestic, foreign and military policies. Its members are the president, the deputy president, and the cabinet secretaries responsible for foreign affairs, internal security and defense. The commander of the Kenya Defense Forces, Inspector General of Police and the Director General of the National Security Intelligence Service are also members.

The change here is that the cabinet secretary responsible for immigration has been excluded; maybe this docket will be fused with one of the ministries represented. This Council may very well be heavily involved in formulation of Kenya’s foreign policy as it will in its implementation.

Another major inclusion is that of the citizenry/public. They can now petition parliament on matters affecting the nation by dint of article 119. This means that informed Kenyans could question government on matters of foreign policy if they feel that it is not in line with Kenya’s national interests. This fact underscores the importance of civil education if the citizenry is to engage fully in the process of foreign policy evaluation.

Finally the president must submit a report in parliament for debate on the progress made to fulfill international obligations of the republic (article132[1] [c] [iii]). This ensures accountability on decisions made by the Kenya government at the international arena.

All in all, the constitution is but one element in domestic politics that will have an effect on the formulation of foreign policy. Therefore in the future evaluation of Kenya’s foreign policy, an examination of the constitutional provisions might give a good insight of top policy makers and influencers which in turn could be crucial in predicting the direction of our policy.

A Critique of The Prince by Niccolo Machiavelli (Part II)

This entry is the second in a series of four entries. The first, posted on the 15th of November, was on a summary of the work. The present one examines his work with the view of affirming or challenging the basic premises made in the book. I hope you will like it and feel free to comment or start a discussion on the same.

I deduct four major issues that underpin Machiavelli’s thesis in the book. The first is his approach to the study of politics. If you have read the book, you must have noticed that his approach rife with the study of what is done by men (I use this term to generically to represent human beings, women included) rather than what men ought to do. This approach is referred to as political realism. Looking at the world not how it ought to be but how it is; looking at how men act not how they ought to act.

In this approach to political study, morals are often rendered immaterial. Morality provides the path upon which man ought to take to be ‘good’. But according to Machiavelli, few of human beings do accept this path to goodness and thus therein he finds justification to advice the prince to be ‘bad’ where necessity demands, which in his view is almost always. In other words he labours under the premise that human nature is in itself bad.

It sets the stage for his second premise which is the existence of a human nature. Hereunder, an assumption is made that all men irrespective of environment would act in a similar way. He further postulates that in their actions, men are selfish and self aggrandizing. One can only conclude that this human nature is inherent in men at birth i.e. we are born selfish and self aggrandizing.

This notion is opposed by those who believe that human nature is inherently good and those that posit that there is no such thing as human nature. Those that believe in the goodness of man (idealists) argue that the only reason why there is evil on earth is that men are not given the opportunity to exude goodness. For example whereas a man with no means would be ‘forced’ to steal to survive would in view of this theory be excusable, it cannot explain how one with so much would steal more of what he has.

Constructivists are a group of thinkers that doubt the existence of human nature at all. To them, what is fondly called human nature actually is a result of nurture. This means that men behave they way they do because of the social environment they are in. If one follows through this argument one would be tempted to conclude that the child of a thief would most likely become a thief. However this is not always the case.

In my view there there are immense benefits in studying the actions of men as they are rather than as they ought to be. Considering the imperfections of man, his tendency to seek after his own interests, a policy analyst ought to look at the track record of actors rather than predicate his policy options on the study of how they ought to behave.

Thirdly, there is an emphasis on the separation of politics and ethics. Niccolo urges the prince to focus only on the ends of his endevours irrespective of the means. Therefore he advises those that seek power though treachery and treason to use it even though he acknowledges that it brings no glory thereby. Thus inevitably, his political philosophy is one that clearly distinguishes morality and political actions; it looks at politics as goal driven, unbound by morals. Herein politics is represented as amoral.

His perspective is in direct conflict with those of Aristotle and company who espoused and espouse that the two are two sides of the same coin. That in politics there ought to be moral goals that are to be attained is a central message by Aristotle. However considering Machiavelli’s assumption on the evil nature of man, it would be foolhardy for a prince to think that the core of political goals is the furtherance of ethic rather than self interest. In my opinion ethical values are injected into political rhetoric to mask ambitions of grandeur and not necessarily that its promoters are slaves thereto.

Finally, Machiavelli heavily relies on use of force in advising a prince on how to hold on to power. According to him a prince ought to devote his time on nothing else than the study and practice of the art of war. One can easily see that would be a natural conclusion considering his views of the obstinate and recalcitrant nature of human beings. Machiavelli goes as far as to state that without good arms, good laws cannot exist. This means that laws alone cannot be useful in human affairs and that a considerable amount of force would need be used to cause obedience.

On this I say, he might be on to something. If laws were not backed by some kind of coercive force would they be obeyed? Think of the number of laws that states have that are often broken because they are not enforced. I also think of international law that is often broken by the powerful because there is no other powerful than they to cause the former’s compliance.

However, this tenet cannot be used to explain why movements such as those fomented by Mahatma Gandhi and Martin Luther King were successful wherein their central theme was passive resistance. Wouldn’t it be unreasonable to expect that the use of force would bear results which we seek all the time? The two World Wars have exhibited how much can be lost using mere force and I am of the opinion that this portion of his work may not entirely represent the state of worldly affairs.

All in all, I think that his work still offers insight into the study of political phenomena. I think it is still useful to the policy analyst seeking to provide options to political actors. However it could be that I am wrong in my conclusion which would require you to set me straight.

Niccolo Machiavelli on Power and Politics: A Review (Part I)


This is the first of four installments. It summarizes The Prince by Niccolo Machiavelli. In doing so, it attempts at providing a framework for a critique of his work, its application to foreign policy analysis and remarks on human nature; these form the second, third and fourth installments respectively. Enjoy your reading.

The Prince is written as an instruction manual for a prominent Italian Prince who was a part of the powerful Medici family. Therefore the book, in all respects, is a practical book that provides a guide for anyone that seeks to obtain and maintain political power.

It can roughly be summarized into five interconnected themes that run through out the book. These themes are: types of principalities there are, means and methods of attaining them, the conduct of the Prince, the company the price keeps and the role of fortune (luck) in human affairs. In my reading, I deduced that these are the major areas of discourse.

On the types of principalities, Machiavelli mentions five: ecclesiastical, civil, hereditary, new and mixed. These are gained and maintained in different ways. For instance a hereditary principality is easily gained as it is based on birth right, but can be easily lost if the Prince be imprudent. However the ecclesiastical principality is not easily gained but maintained with ease. This latter principality I liken to the regime in Vatican.

Machiavelli also discusses the means and methods of acquisition. These are very closely linked to the types of principalities an aspiring prince wants to obtain. For instance if it is a civil principality (republic), a Prince ought to balance the competing interests of the nobles and the common man (i.e. Wanjiku as is fondly called in Kenya).

Of the methods mentioned one is strikingly cold (if you are an idealist). Though he says it has no glory and is devoid of all that is moral, Machiavelli still endorses the use of treachery and treason in acquiring power. My deduction here is that the end justifies the means. Thus this is an open avenue for one to acquire power if an aspiring Prince so chooses to oblige.

Notably, Niccolo heavily leans on the use of arms as a means of acquisition. He instructs a Prince that he need not bother himself in the study of another art than that of war. He implores the Prince to rely on his own arms and not those of others because these are unreliable. Therefore a Prince must never use mercenary, auxiliary and mixed armies.

A Prince, according to Machiavelli, ought to behave in a way that will add to his power and not take it away. Therefore in as much as being good is favoured, if by being bad he maintains his hold on power then by all means he should be bad. However he need be watchful that he is not hated by his people. Thus he advocates for a Prince to be cruel, miserly, keep faith in words and not deeds and above all strive to be feared and not loved.

The company the Prince chooses to keep is also considered. When the Prince picks his secretaries (cabinet) he ought to pick those who are intelligent. This is because this choice is a reflection of his wisdom. He also ought to keep at bay flatterers by encouraging a select few to tell give him their candid opinion.

Finally, Machiavelli talks about the role of fortune/luck in human affairs. He concedes that it determines more than half of human actions. Thus a Prince must be aware of the times and adapt to them. If he does not, then fortune would deal him a cruel hand. However he urges Princes to be audacious and bold for fortune, like women, favours such virtues.