Kenya caught in the middle of US-China tension

China denies plans of setting up military base.

This photo illustration shows a Chinese 100 yuan note (C) and US 100 notes in Beijing on January 14, 2020.  (Photo by NICOLAS ASFOURI/AFP via Getty Images)

As US-China rivalry intensifies, Kenyans have found themselves caught in the middle. The Chinese Embassy has come out to dispel rumours of establishing a military base in Kenya.

Earlier this month, reports came out that the US Department of Defence was concerned about China's intention to build military logistics bases in Kenya, Tanzania as well as 10 other African countries.

“The PRC [People’s Republic of China] has likely considered a number of countries, including… Kenya, as locations for PLA [People’s Liberation Army] facilities,” according to the Pentagon’s annual report to the US Congress.

Responding to the report, the Embassy termed the Pentagon’s report as propaganda and asked the US to drop its “Cold War mentality.”

"Chinese MFA (Ministry of Foreign affairs) has urged them to stop issuing irresponsible reports year after year, and abandon the outdated cold-war mentality and zero-sum game mindset," said the Chinese Embassy.

China's growing influence in Africa

China has in the recent past poured vast sums of money into its efforts to project power. In 2017, China established its first overseas military base in Djibouti although Beijing officially refers to it as a logistics facility.

Marines from the Chinese Navy, as well as armoured vehicles and artillery support, are stationed at the Djibouti base.

The location on the north-western edge of the Indian Ocean has raised concerns in India that it will join Beijing’s “string of pearls” of military alliances and assets that encircle India, including Bangladesh, Myanmar, and Sri Lanka.

China has lent vast sums of money to African governments and built ports, roads, airports and bridges around the continent as part of its Belt and Road Initiative.

China says its investments in Africa are aimed purely at driving economic development, and many countries have welcomed improvements to their infrastructure that have aided the flow of commerce.

But some projects have left governments, including Kenya’s, saddled with billions of dollars of debt to China and sparked distrust and resentment.

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