Why Jomo Kenyatta angrily chased away Chinese Ambassador out of Kenya; ordered embassy to be closed

Analyzing differences in how father and son have handled the Chinese


President Uhuru Kenyatta’s administration will go down in history as one that facilitated Chinese domination of various strategic sectors of the economy.

Under President Kenyatta, Kenya signed a contract that waived its sovereignty over strategic national assets such as the Kenya Airports Authority (KAA).

The country has also witnessed the influx of Chinese nationals who have been controversially allowed to operate all manner of businesses – even those reserved for small-scale traders.

There is also the growing debt owed to the Asian giant – all factors have contributed to the growing Ant-Chinese mood in the country.

Kenya and China diplomatic row

However, the relations between Kenya and China have not always been this cordial. Indeed, President Uhuru appears to be reversing the foreign policy pushed by his father – Kenya’s founding President Jomo Kenyatta.

Old Jomo had first hand experience of the cunning habits of the Chinese but unlike his son, he was quick to nip the problem in the bud.

When Kenya attained independence, Jomo sought to foster good relations with China – as evidenced by a state visit to the Asian nation in 1964.

However, the relationship between the two nations soured as a result of factional politics pitting the capitalist Kenyatta and his influential minister Tom Mboya against the country’s first Vice President Jaramogi Odinga.

Odinga believed in communism, the ideology pushed by China while Kenyatta and Mboya favored capitalist that was advocated the west.

By 1966, the ideological differences had broken the political friendship between Kenyatta and Odinga.

Although Jomo had not had a problem with the Chinese, he began to suspect that the Chinese were still supporting his ally-turned-rival – triggering a diplomatic row between the two countries.

In March 1966, Kenya expelled the third secretary in the Chinese embassy, Yao Chun, on suspicions of plotting subversion.

Chun had protested at the adoption of a motion by Parliament condemning then Chinese premier Chou En-lai’s who had observed that Africa was “ripe for revolution” after visiting the continent.

Kenyatta and the Parliament he controlled argued that independence had brought about a “revolution” hence there was no need for a second revolution.

Daniel arap Moi

The row escalated after then Vice President Daniel arap Moi went on the offensive with a heated speech against the Chinese.

Not lying down, the China-men arranged a demonstration outside the Kenyan embassy in Beijing.

Kenyatta’s people organized a counter protest in Nairobi during which KANU youth wingers broke windows at the Chinese Embassy in Nairobi.

The two countries subsequently recalled their respective ambassadors.

In June 1967, Kenyatta declared Chinese chargé d’affaires persona non grata, ordering his immediate deportation and essentially shutting down the embassy.

China would later reciprocate the action – crippling operations at the Kenyan embassy in Beijing. The situation lasted for 11 years and only resumed after Jomo’s death and his replaced by Moi (the man whose speech had started off the diplomatic row!


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